COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Some things in life are never forgotten.
“I went in 1966 immediately following high school graduation. Ed Kerns, a Vietnam War veteran, said, “When I enlisted, I was 17 years old, and my mother had to sign the paperwork for me to go in.”
In 1966, the war in Vietnam was rapidly increasing.
Initially, Kerns was assigned to a supply company away from the action, but he changed his mind after seeing several of his colleagues deployed overseas.
“I told my commanding officer to put me on the next boat to Vietnam. He looked at me like I was insane,” quipped Kerns.
North Vietnamese forces would finally strike Kerns and his men on Hill 861 outside of Khe Sanh, where he was eventually stationed.
He stated that his survival would not have been possible without the sacrifices of the men fighting with him.
“They defended me. “I didn’t realize I was the only survivor until approximately five in the morning, after the conflict had ended,” stated Kerns.
As time passes and veterans of the conflict pass away, the frequency of stories like Kerns’ is decreasing. However, a number of organizations are trying to ensure that individuals who served are acknowledged and given the opportunity to visit memorials honoring their service.
Adam Gregg, lieutenant governor of Iowa, stated, “We are losing this generation, we are losing their memories and experiences, but this is a wonderful way to recognize their service and sacrifices by giving them the opportunity to witness it.”
Lt. Governor Gregg was there Monday evening for a send-off party honoring the newest Honor Flight, a program that takes veterans to Washington, DC to see the dozens of monuments commemorating their service.
For Kerns, the flight represents more than an opportunity to be recognized for his service.
He believes this is a chance to bond with the soldiers who sacrificed their life to save him and express his gratitude for their sacrifice.
Kerns stated, “I must locate five men on the wall and let them know they have not been forgotten.”
The Honor Flight for Kearns and his fellow veterans will depart Tuesday morning and spend the next three days touring the nation’s Capitol and monuments honoring their service.