WWII vet takes 'Honor Flight'
Tony Koshenina's special day came 48 hours after his 89th birthday this year.
Koshenina and 99 other World War II veterans took the Twin Cities Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., May 22 for a tour of a number of monuments including some special war memorials.
The Twin Cities Honor Flight was sponsored by Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Charity and was free to the veterans.
"I can't say enough about the Vietnam veterans and how they handled the trip," said Koshenina, reflecting on his experience in his Roberts residence. I'm so pleased with all they did for us."
To be sure it was an action-packed day and as one would expect, organized in true military fashion.
"It began at 4 a.m.," he said. Koshenina's daughter, Ann Reams, of Hudson picked him up and took him to the Humphrey Terminal of the Twin Cities airport for a 6 a.m. Sun Country flight.
The group was organized into platoons and squads. Tony was in Squad 7 of the White Platoon. He and one other vet were accompanied by a guardian who watched over them throughout the trip.
There were fed breakfast on the plane and landed in the national capitol after a two-hour flight. The group was met by three buses supplied with wheelchairs in the cargo bay, he said.
"They told us to take a wheelchair to push and have a place to sit down if we didn't need it to get around," he said.
"The youngest man in the group was 82 years old. He joined the Navy at 17," Koshenina said.
The tour of the sights took them to monuments for the Marines at Iwo Jima, the Air Force, Navy and Women's Memorial, the six-year-old World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial and Vietnam Wall.
Koshenina has a vested interest in several of the war memorials. He had a younger brother who was a tail gunner on a B-17 in the Army Air Corps who was killed in World War II and is buried in Belgium.
Another younger brother served in the Korean War and a son, Mike Koshenina, served in the Air Force in Vietnam.
The bus tour also included some of the traditional sights such as a drive by the Pentagon, Smithsonian Institute, U. S. Capitol, White House and Washington Monument.
The group boarded the bus at about 5:30 p.m. for dinner in a restaurant. The noon meal had been taken care of with a box lunch on the bus.
After the evening meal it was off to Dulles Airport for the flight home at 9:30 p.m. on the Sun County charter. They got back to the Twin Cities and were met with a reception.
"About 100 people were there to greet us," he said. "and the Army band played for us." His daughter Mary Schottler was part of the group and she drove him home.
It was about 1 a.m. before Koshenina made it back to his bed in Roberts.
It was a full day and, "a very good experience," Koshenina said and again thanked the Vietnam vets for their help. "They organize this, funds and donations to put it together. There is no government money in it," he said.
"It was a good trip. Nobody went AWOL and there were no casualties," he said.
May 20th was Koshenina's 89th birthday. "Usually the kids take us out to dinner but this year I said make a donation to the Vietnam Veterans Charity," he said.
Koshenina grew up on a farm near Upsala, Minn. "We had a pretty big farm and I had a two-year deferment (form the daft) to help out on the farm. Then I let myself get drafted," he said.
He joined the Army on Oct. 11, 1944, and started out in the military police but was later assigned to the Navy hospital ship Comfort and without any training became a dental assistant. He served in the Philippines, and after the war ended up in Japan.