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By Tammy Witherspoon, Reprinted with permission from the Advertiser in Eldon, MO
Serendipity: The occurrence and development of events, by chance, in a happy or beneficial way.
Serendipty is a word that could be used to describe a lifelong friendship between Eldon residents Dennis Killday and Mike Kriegshauser that culminated in being on the first Central Missouri Honor Flight in 22 months.
Both men say they found the trip emotional and humbling. They were amazed by the cheers and good wishes they received on their trip to the Washington D.C. War Memorials and on their way home.
Killday and Kriegshauser served during the Vietnam era (Killday in Vietnam and Kriegshauser in Germany). They didn’t receive cheers back then.
Vitriol and protests were the norm back then. Kriegshauser says it was so bad some veterans didn’t want people to know they had served. Fast forward to 2022 and attitudes have changed.
A Tale Of Two Edina Boys
Killday and Kriegshauser are originally from Edina. They first met when they went to school at St. Joseph. “We were together for about two years,” says Killday.
Killday was graduated from Knox County High School in 1967. He worked for a year before enlisting in the United States Army. He served from October of 1968 to October of 1969.
He served as a combat engineer with the 70th Engineer Battalion working up and down the Cambodian border, but never entering Cambodia.
Kriegshauser was graduated in 1968. He attended Northeast Missouri State University- Kirksville (now Truman University) before being drafted. Kriegshauser then signed up for an additional year of service.
Kriegshauser actually had orders for Vietnam but they were revoked. Kriegshauser was stationed in Washington D.C. before being sent to Germany. While there he was called out to protect against an anti-war protest.
He was then sent to Germany where, he also worked with heavy machinery.
Kriegshauser was stationed at the Mannheim Army base working as a heavy equipment mechanic repairing the equipment destroyed in the Reforger exercises (this was an annual exercise conducted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during the cold war.
“They would break up the equipment during the war games, we would fix it and they would break it again the next year,” says Kriegshauser.
After leaving the Army, Killday went to work for Southwestern Bell, staying with the company for 30 years.
The job eventually brought him to Eldon.
After retiring, Killday worked with a family business that built power lines. He is retired now.
He and his wife Linda were married in 1991. The couple have five children and 10 grandchildren between them.
After leaving the Army Kriegshauser continued his education at NMSU.
He was graduated in December of 1977, taking his first teaching position with Mokane School District in January 1978. He taught industrial arts.
At the time Mokane was one of the smallest and poorest districts in the state. Due to industry moving when Kriegshauser left 10 years later, it was one of the smallest and richest districts in the state.
Kriegshauser’s next position was with Nickles Career Center in Jefferson City where he would remain for 24 years, retiring as director of the career center.
Kriegshauser and his wife Susan were married in 1992, which was how he got Eldon. Between them, the couple have five children and seven grandchildren.
Kriegshauser first became acquainted with the Central Missouri Honor Flight when his father, a World War II veteran, took the flight.
Killday and Kriegshauser had both signed up to take the next flight, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After 22 months without a flight, even the organizers were wondering if they could make it work smoothly, says Kriegshauser, but it moved forward and he was scheduled for the May 9 flight.
Once accepted for the trip, veterans are assigned guardians who go on the trip with them and look after their needs.
Shortly after being assigned a guardian Kriegshauser received a call telling him his guardian was being replaced. His new guardian would be Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe.
Kriegshauser attended a pre-flight meeting in Columbia the Saturday before the flight and just like being in the military found himself standing in a lot of lines. He happened to look up and there was Killday standing at the front of the line.
Monday, May 10, at midnight 95 veterans loaded onto three buses headed to the St. Louis Airport. They pulled onto the interstate at 1:45 a.m.
Killday and Kriegshauser say when the buses arrived at the St. Louis Airport, it was just a bunch of old men who had been on the road for a while and needed the bathroom and they weren’t thinking about anything but that.
Instead they walked in and people started clapping and cheering. “We weren’t expecting that,” says Killday.
“It was like that everywhere we went,” says Kriegshauser.
They didn’t have to go through the usual check-in procedure at the airport.
Once they arrived in Washington, D.C. it was a whirlwind of visiting the monuments.
Killday says it amazed him how organized the volunteers were and how smoothly things went.
Both men say they found the Korean War Memorial to be haunting and the Vietnam Memorial was humbling.
“I think the Vietnam Memorial touched me the most,” says Kriegshauser, “Because it was my memorial.”
They particularly found the World War II Memorial impressive.
Killday says throughout the day people made it easy for the veterans to get where they needed to be without the usual checks required of other people.
Kriegshauser chuckles as he recalls one story. He had some time on his own as he walked through one of the memorials. A well-dressed young woman came up to him and asked if she could walk with him.
Kriegshauser was a bit confused so he was asked her, “Why would you want to walk with an old fat man like me?”
She apologized and explained she was from Senator Josh Hawley’s office. He got his picture taken with her and Kehoe.
When they were bused back to the plane and seated, the pilot came on and told them it was going to take awhile because they were in the sixth position to take off.
In just a few minutes the pilot came back on and said, “This is the first time I’ve ever flown a group like this and you must have done something extraordinary because we’ve been moved to the first position.
One part of the honor flights is mail call where the veterans receive letters from family, friends and other veterans.
Kriegshauser pulled out one letter and it was from his brother. He says he choked up and couldn’t read.