March 8, 2021

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

A trip of a lifetime for local veteran

Clarence and Curty Matejka take Honor Flight together.

Honor Flight was created so veterans can see the memori-als built to commemorate the sacrifices of the “Greatest Gen-eration.” They are the men and women who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the VietNam Conflict. Often due to the age, financial constraints, and health concerns of veterans from these wars, they do not have the opportuni-ty to see the memorials. Therefore in 2005, shortly after the completion of the World War II memorials, Honor Flight began.

Since that time thousands of veterans from across the United States have been able to travel to Washington DC to visit the memorials and other famous sites. Clarence Matejka and his son, Curt, took that trip last fall and have wonderful memories from it. Clarence Matejka was one of 13 children of Loddie and Lean Matejka born on Moose Island (between Donnelly and Herman.) He will be 100 years old in June 2020. 

Clarence now resides in Frazee, Minnesota but his sister, Lou Kopel, still lives in the Donnelly area along with many nieces and nephews in the area. Clarence was one of the founders of the Morris Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5039. He and his son Curt are both lifetime members of the Morris post.

When Clarence was invited to join the Honor Flight he knew he wanted to share the experience with his son, Curt. Curt is a VietNam Veteran, but they are only invited on the flight if they have a terminal illness. However, Clarence was able to invite one guest to accompany him. The guest would need to pay their own way.

The American Legion and VFW in Detroit Lakes learned of Clarence’s wish to bring Curt. Representatives of the or-ganizations, along with Curt’s wife Rhonda, organized fund-raisers on his behalf. The father-son duo was set to fly out on October 20 and return the next day.

Once their plane landed in Washington DC they were divided into four tour buses and were escorted around the city by police officers on motorcycles. A tour guide on the bus explained each sight and gave interesting facts that went with them. Some of the sites visited were the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Lincoln Memorial, VietNam Wall, World War II Memorial, and Korean War Memorial. 

After a day of visiting memorials, the veterans and their guests were treated to a banquet with a show that reminded Clarence of the USO performances. There were a lot of jokes, songs and dance. Then the mail call came.

Curt had organized people to send letters to be given to his father by asking loved ones and friends to write to him. He received 61 letters at the banquet. 

The next day they returned to Fargo and were welcomed home with a homecoming greeting neither one received upon returning from war. When Clarence returned, there was a blizzard so he ended up walking the remaining miles to get home. For Curt, the return from Viet Nam was very quiet.

This time, their return was to cheering and huge signs thanking them for their service. It was the homecoming neither of them received or expected. It wrapped up an amazing trip they would recommend to any veteran.

Katie Erdman