WASHINGTON D.C. - Honor Flights celebrate America’s veterans by sharing a day of honor and appreciation with them at the nation’s memorials in Washington D.C.
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Daniel L Karbler, met veterans on an Honor Flight from his home state of Wisconsin, Oct. 8, 2022.
“It’s incredible to thank veterans for their service, recognize their family members who supported them and reconnect with my Wisconsin peeps,” Karbler said. “It’s what we do in the Army, and it’s part of being thankful and making sure that our veterans understand how much their service is appreciated.”
One of the veterans Karbler met was retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Koszuta, who served during the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1972. He wanted to be a helicopter pilot, and the Army gave him that chance
“I knew they’d take me,” Koszuta said. “The Navy wanted two years of college, which I had, but they said, ‘Well, we got a whole bunch of people in line before you. It might be a year before you start as a pilot.’ And then I ended up going to the Army and they said, ‘Sit down here, son. We’ll talk to you.’”
It wasn’t long after Koszuta joined the Army that he deployed to Vietnam.
“I went through Army flight school and right after that, 15 days later, I was in Vietnam,” Koszuta said.
He served with the 121st Assault Helicopter Company transporting troops for three months before he switched to flying gunships, saying it was a lot better.
“You keep moving, you’re harder to hit,” Koszuta said.
He served in Vietnam a year before returning to the U.S.
Koszuta went back to Vietnam two more times, once more deploying with the Army as a helicopter maintenance test pilot in September 1971 and again after the cease-fire in 1973 as a civilian pilot with Air America, a passenger and cargo airline that was a “civilian-run organization by the civilians for the civilians,” Koszuta said.
Koszuta said that when he thinks of the Army, he thinks of “all the time I zoomed around.”
“I was lucky. I took some bullet holes in the helicopter but never in me,” Koszuta said.
He went off active duty in 1972 and went on to serve 17 years in both the Illinois National Guard and Army Reserve.
Koszuta enjoyed the opportunity to see the war memorials.
“I really appreciate this,” Koszuta said. “When I worked out of Fort Eustis, Virginia, we came up here just one week and kind of looked around, but we’re getting a lot better experience with this because they’re showing us every place, and when you’re by yourself in a car with your wife and your kid, you can only do so much. This is nice.”
Amy Payne, one of Koszuta’s daughters, accompanied him on the Honor Flight and said the experience has been great.
“He didn’t get the kind of homecoming that he should have after the war,” Payne said. “I would say in the last 30 years or so, you’re talking about it more. There’s been more activity, more respect for veterans, which has been really amazing to have an experience like this. So, it’s just really special and sweet.”
It is also wonderful to be able to connect with other veterans and active-duty military members, Koszuta said.
“I appreciate anybody who did service in the military, whether they did just a one-year hitch or 20 good years to retire,” Koszuta said. “They all earned their salts, as they say, earned their position and did something for the military.”
Since its formation in 2005, the Honor Flight Network has taken more than 245,000 veterans to Washington D.C.