94-Year-Old Albert Lea Veteran Takes the Trip of a Lifetime

October 01, 2017 11:23 PM

(ABC 6 News) – When Flight SY8601 touched down in Washington, D.C. Saturday, it marked the first time World War II veteran Charles Kozelsky had set foot in the nation’s capital.

More than 70 years after the fighting stopped, Kozelsky got his chance to see the memorial dedicated to the more than 16 million World War II veterans thanks to the Twin Cities Honor Flight, an experience he called touching.


Kozelsky, who was drafted in June 1943, spent nearly 18 months stationed in Guadalcanal as part of the Army Corps of Engineers, repairing tractors and other large equipment U.S. forces used to slowly advance on Japan.

After the war, Kozelsky returned home to Illinois, only to learn he wouldn’t be able to collect his uniform and other memories due to family issues.

Now, seven decades later, his trip allowed him to see what he and others fought for while making new memories with his fellow veterans.

“It'll be something to see, you know. That's about all I can say. I'm really looking forward to going here. I can hardly wait to go,” Charles said Thursday, prior to his trip.

Kozelsky, his son Tim and daughter-in-law Susan left the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday, flying to Washington, D.C. and back in one day. The trio and other members of the Honor Flight group toured the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials, as well as Arlington National Cemetery.

“It was very touching, you know. You see all these people looking and taking pictures,” Charles said.

“For our veterans, there is a special bond between people and the vets that we're supporting whenever we can,” Tim said.

With only around 624,000 World War II veterans still living, Honor Flight programs around the country are racing against time to help as many as possible see the monument. Since 2005, the Honor Flight program has helped more than 180,000 veterans see the memorials they fought for and others died for.

Now, weeks before his 95th birthday, Charles will have more memories to share at his annual birthday dinner.

“I'm glad that everything is the way it is and that people really love this country the way they do,” he said.

To donate to the Twin Cities Honor Flight, visit their website for more information.  


Logan Reigstad

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