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Family ties: Several vets visited by children, grandchildren in D.C.

Albert Breuker of Harris, Iowa, (left) poses with his grandson, Lt. Col Ted Breuker, at the World War II Memorial. Ted Breuker is stationed at Langley Air Force Base. (AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE)1 / 4
Duane Overaas (left) of Jackson, is joined by his grandson, Scott Nelson, who works for Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon. Joining them in the photo is another Jackson veteran, Don Nielsen. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)2 / 4
Cecil Zahren (left) of Lake Park, Iowa, poses with his son, Scott Zahren, at the Iowa pillar of the World War II Memorial. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)3 / 4
John (from left) and Becky Smith join Becky's father, World War II veteran Ed Dirckx, and her brother-in-law and Honor Flight guardian Pat Dero at the Marine Corps Memorial. (AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE)4 / 4

WASHINGTON -- The Honor Flight is a wonderful experience for the World War II veterans, and it is for the children and grandchildren who get to accompany them on the journey.

On this third Honor Flight from southwest Minnesota, several families found creative ways to be together -- at least for a portion of the two-day experience.

Ed Dirckx of Marshall stepped off the bus Friday afternoon at the Air Force Memorial to find his daughter, Becky, and her husband John Smith, of McKinney, Texas, waiting there for him.

"We've been planning this since we learned he was going," Becky said. The couple had flown to Washington, D.C., Thursday night so they could be waiting at the first memorial.

Dirckx, whose son-in-law, Pat Dero, was a guardian on the flight, was quite surprised.

"They all knew but me," he said, looking around at the accomplices. "Pat was talking about more surprises today."

"Do you know how long we had to keep a secret? Months!" Pat said. The last time the family had been together was Christmas.

"Becky has been trying to convince Ed to come out and see all the memorials for the last year and a half," Pat said.

Becky, who works for Boeing, often travels to D.C. for her job. In fact, she'd just been in the capital city from Sunday through Tuesday. She returned to Texas and flew back two days later with her husband.

Equally as surprising as the visit Dirckx received was the trip Scott Zahren made to be with his dad, Cecil Zahren, of Lake Park, Iowa.

Scott, who lives near the Amana Colonies in Iowa, decided the weekend before that he and a friend would make the drive out to Washington, D.C.

"We took off after work, at about 6 o'clock Thursday night, and drove through the night," he said. The 16-hour drive ended when they arrived in the capital city by 11 a.m. Friday -- at about the same time the Miami Air 737 filled with World War II veterans landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Scott surprised his dad at the Marine Corps Memorial, and followed him the rest of the day and Saturday.

At the World War II Memorial Saturday morning, Scott was relishing the experience alongside his father.

"The emotion from everybody that's here is just overwhelming, and when the young people come up and talk to him, you can see the pride they never show," he said. "This is the first time I've seen my dad talk about it really. It's extremely emotional."

Duane Overaas of Jackson was visited by two of his grandsons that now reside in the D.C. area. Scott Nelson, a native of Wilder and graduate of Georgetown University, works in the offices of Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon.

"He just got back from Afghanistan three weeks ago," Overaas said.

While Scott spent the morning with his grandpa at the World War II Memorial, it was his brother Adam who met up with Overaas in the afternoon.

"We met up at the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln memorials and had a nice visit," said Overaas, who hadn't seen either of his grandsons in nearly a year and a half.

Albert Breuker of Harris, Iowa, also had a visit from his grandson during the two-day Honor Flight. Lt. Col. Ted Breuker works in operations at Langley Air Force Base and met up with his grandpa at the Heroes Banquet Friday night at the Westin in Alexandria, Va. The two spent Saturday together at the World War II Memorial, as well as the Korean, Vietnam, Lincoln and FDR memorials.

As for what Albert thought of the special visit, he said, "It's great, you bet!"

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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