Recently, Decorah resident Howard Bernatz was one of nine WWII veterans selected to make a one-day trip to Washington D.C. with Eastern Iowa Honor Flight.
Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is a non-profit organization dedicated to flying local veterans to Washington D.C. to visit various historical sites and war memorials. Since EIHF began in 2009, the organization has flown more than 1,500 Iowa Veterans from Cedar Rapids to Washington, D.C.
Howard Bernatz was drafted into the Army shortly after he graduated from Decorah High School in 1945. He was trained as a paratrooper and a gliderman and served in the Army Airborne from 1945-1947. Bernatz's daughter Jana Cunningham of Arizona learned about EIHF and nominated her father to participate. Bernatz says, "I was very surprised and honored to be picked."
On May 24th, Betnatz joined 85 other veterans and their guardians to fly to Washington D.C. The group spent the day viewing various sites and visiting 10 National Memorials. When the group returned to the Cedar Rapids airport late that evening, they were welcomed home by a band and over 800 people who came to honor the veterans at a reception.
"It was an outstanding experience," says Bernatz. "I was really impressed with all of the memorials in Washington D.C.. If you ever get the chance to visit, I would definitely encourage it. It was a long day, but it was a wonderful, meaningful experience."
Bernatz was one of many local veterans who attended the Veterans Appreciation Day on Wednesday morning at the Winneshiek County Courthouse. The open house was hosted by the Winneshiek County Commission of Veterans Affairs. Veterans were invited to enjoy treats and refreshments and they also received a U.S. flag pin, a mug, and a personalized certificate of appreciation from Winneshiek County Commission representatives.