Veterans talk about joys, challenges of military service

Veteran's Voices

CARROLL, Iowa — During a recent event with the Friends of Army Aviation, several veterans sat down with WHO 13 News to talk about some of the challenges and joys they faced.

“I think my most proudest moment was when I retired three years ago,” said Chad Heithoff, an Air Force veteran. “Each retiree gets a retirement flag. You can present it to whoever you want to present it to, and I presented it to my family because without your family to support you, you can’t do it.”

Heithoff talked about having to spend a lot of time away from family.

“It’s hard being in the military. We’re gone all the time,” said Heithoff. “I’ve got years of deployments under my belt, that’s away from your families, but I always knew that was my rock and my foundation when I came home. That’s why I gave my retirement flag to my family.”

His father, Vietnam veteran Larry Heithoff, also shared about separation from family.

“I was the oldest of seven. When we left the family, it’s a big deal. Chad, our oldest, when he left our family, it was quite devastating too,” said Larry. “As far as serving in the military was that we got the chance, we saved a lot of lives, hauling them back to the hospital.”

Tom Aretz, an Army Vietnam veteran, talked about serving with his real brother. They were shot down in the same aircraft in 1969.

“We’re all brothers, but when you look over and your helicopter is on fire and you’re going down at 120 miles an hour and look over at your real brother,” said Aretz.

Both brothers survived the crash, Aretz jokingly said they knew if they had both died, their father would have been angry.

“I’m still living it, is the bond. I’m closer to some of those guys that I was my own family,” said Joe Emerson, a Vietnam veteran Huey pilot. “Because you depend, the trust that you have, it’s a brotherhood.”

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