Carrying the memories

Veterans depart on Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight

This small Bible held by Bill Quintus, of Lakeville, Minnesota,, was carried by four members of his family in four wars.

FORT DODGE — The small Bible, looking well-used and held together with rubber bands, fits easily in one of Army veteran Bill Quintus’ hands.

Four members of his family carried that Bible in four wars. The Minnesota man carried it himself when he spent 13 months in South Vietnam.

On Wednesday, Quintus had it with him again as he prepared to board the 25th voyage of the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight.

He was among the roughly 120 veterans who packed the terminal of Fort Dodge Regional Airport just before dawn. By 6:30 a.m. they were all on board a Sun Country Airlines 737 that took off into the slowly brightening sky on its way to Washington, D.C., where they would visit the nation’s war memorials.

Their whirlwind trip would include stops at the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Navy Memorial, the United States Marine Corps War Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.

The group was to return to Fort Dodge Regional Airport late Wednesday night.

But before they boarded the plane, the veterans had time to reminisce, reflect and just shoot the breeze like they used to do in the barracks.

That’s when Quintus, a Garner native, pulled his treasured Bible from his backpack. The Salvation Army gave it to his father, Earl Quintus, just before he shipped out to France in 1918 to fight in World War I. His father kept it after the war was over.

More than 30 years later, his older brother, Warren, took it with him during his World War II service. Another older brother, Gordon, took it with him during the Korean War.

Then Bill Quintus took it to South Vietnam during his Army service from 1968 to 1970.

Other treasured mementoes going on the plane with the veterans were American flags representing those who died before they could participate in an Honor Flight.

One of those flags was for Douglas Adams, an Army veteran from Otho who died Oct. 28, 2023, of illness his family said was caused by exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant the military commonly used in South Vietnam.

He was to go on Wednesday’s flight with his brother, Darwin Adams, an Army veteran from Thompson. Darwin Adams was accompanied on the flight by his son, Darrin Adams, of Emmetsburg.

While they all had to fill out the same application to get a seat on the flight, each veteran had their own story as to how and why they decided to go on an Honor Flight.

Quintus said he was recruited by Mel Schroeder, of Fort Dodge, a member of the Honor Flight board who had been one of his teachers at the high school in Garner. He said he invited Schroeder to his 55th class reunion. During that reunion, Schroeder told Quintus that he ought to go on an Honor Flight.

Air Force veteran Tom Arends, of Milford, is a co-owner of the Buy Rite grocery store there. He said his two business partners urged him to go.

“They just thought it was time,” he said.

Arends was an airman from 1969 to 1973 and for much of that time he was assigned to a security squadron that intercepted North Vietnamese communications and used the information to plot air strikes by B-52 bombers. He said he had top security clearance.

An Iowa Air National guard veteran, Mick Ashley, of Moville, signed up for the flight after his daughter-in-law sent him the link to do so.

“These people over here at Brushy Creek — they are really organized,” he said. “They know what they’re doing.”

He was a member of the 185th Fighter Wing when it was called to active duty in 1968 and 1969 in South Vietnam. He recalled that the air base was shelled twice while he was there, but that was the only violence he saw.

“To me, it was like a job,” Ashley said. “These guys that were in the Army and Marines — they paid the price.”


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