Jake Jacoby finally went to Washington.
He was part of the Old Glory Honor Flight on Thursday, Oct. 17.
“That was my first trip to Washington and it probably will be my last,” Jacoby said. “I wouldn’t have gotten there if not for the Honor Flight.”
The 21st Northeast Wisconsin Old Glory Honor Flight left Appleton at about 6:30 a.m. and landed in Washington, D.C., at about 10:15 a.m.
The tour for the veterans and their guardians (about 162 people total) included Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the World War II, Korean, Vietnam, Iwo Jima, Air Force and Lincoln memorials.
Prior to the trip, Jacoby wasn’t sure how much he would be able to see in Washington, D.C.
“With the government shutdown, we didn’t know if the memorials would be open,” he said. “But the President signed a bill late that night to temporarily open the memorials.”
“The Honor Flight people were very accommodating,” Jacoby said. “They set this up with the plane, the buses, and they took care of us.”
They ate breakfast during the morning flight, with a snack provided on the return flight. While in Washington, D.C., they were given a box lunch to eat on the bus.
“We were busy all the time,” Jacoby said. “We didn’t have time to sit around and eat.”
Each veteran had a guardian/companion. The flight also included EMTs, nurses and a doctor.
Jacoby’s guardian for the flight was his friend Jerry Oestreich, whom he met when they both were doing military rights ceremonies at funerals.
The Old Glory Honor Flight, Inc. collects donations to provide free trips for the veterans. The guardians fund their own trip, which cost about $500 each.
“I feel quite honored I was asked to go,” Oestreich said.
“The size of those memorials is just unbelievable,” he said. “It was quite interesting.”
Most of the time, Jacoby walked to the memorials. But he used a wheelchair to see the Vietnam Memorial, which is quite long.
“My guardian took me the whole length of that memorial,” he said. “There were over 50,000 names on it.”
“That was my job. That was my mission,” Oestreich said.
Besides, he was looking for the name of someone he knew. They finally asked an attendant look up the name in the directory so Oestreich could find his friend’s name.
The two Clintonville veterans were amazed by the dedication of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I felt kind of sorry for them,” Oestreich said.
“A lot of people don’t realize when they show Arlington Cemetery you’re only seeing a little section of it,” Jacoby said. “There are 600 acres of gravestones. It’s so big.”
They were told there is an average of 27 funerals a day at the cemetery.
Oestreich was especially impressed with the Marine Corps drill team at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
“Their perfection was amazing,” he said.
He will never forget the brigadier general who shook hands and saluted each veteran as they arrived. He noted the general also stood and saluted as the buses departed.
“That brigadier general – who we don’t even know – went out of his way to greet every vet from Wisconsin,” Oestreich said, “and our own politicians didn’t have the time.”
“I saw Sen. Ron Johnson walk right past our bus,” he said. “It’s not like they didn’t know we were there.”
Oestreich noted that form letters from various Wisconsin politicians were included in a packet each veteran received on the airplane.
All of the veterans were surprised at the greeting they received at the Ronald Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C., but they were totally overwhelmed by the welcome they received upon returning to the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton.
There to greet them were a crowd of people that included friends, family and military groups. Even members of the Clintonville Veterans of Foreign Wars and Clintonville American Legion were there, which impressed Oestreich and Jacoby.
Several members of Jacoby’s immediate family were also waiting at the Appleton airport.
“I was surprised they came. I almost walked past them,” Jacoby said. “It was really something.”
Jacoby is a member of Clintonville’s VFW Post 664.
He went to Korea in 1952 and came home Oct. 22, 1954. He served with the military police in the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission.
While serving in Korea, he recalls being part of the assigned guard to watch Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, during a prisoner exchange.
“We had to be with him wherever he moved,” Jacoby said.
Oestreich was in the U.S. Air Force from June 1963 to December 1966, serving in Turkey and Italy.
He is a member of the Clintonville American Legion.