Freedom Festival welcomes local volunteers and healthcare professionals in Tribute to Heroes

Freedom Festival welcomes local volunteers and healthcare professionals in Tribute to Heroes

Stekl began volunteering with the flight after organizing a fundraising campaign at his work. After going on a flight for the first time, he said he was hooked. For Allen Stekl, nothing compares to the feeling of accompanying veterans on the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, which takes them to Washington, D.C. to see various landmarks and war memorials. “Once you go on a flight, you understand the impact it has on veterans,” he said. “It’s a very emotional day for them.”

The third honor was given to the medical community and health care workers as a whole, accepted on their behalf by Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi, Mercy Medical Center CEO and President Tim Charles, and Unity-Point Health — Cedar Rapids CEO and President Michelle Niermann. Allen Stekl, a volunteer with the Eastern Iowa Honor flight, and Tracy Kading, a retired Hy-Vee store manager who volunteers with various organizations, were chosen as heroes for their volunteer work in the community.

Allen Stekl The event, which is traditionally a public dinner kicking off the summer Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival, was held as a scaled-back private dinner on May 24 to honor this year’s heroes. The dinner will be livestreamed on June 17 as a virtual event.

The program was originally offered only to World War II veterans, but has expanded to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Before COVID-19 halted flights, Stekl said there would often be hundreds of people gathered at the airport to welcome veterans back from the flight. As a veteran himself, Stekl said the Honor Flight is important to give veterans the appreciation that many did not get when they returned from overseas.

Over the past 10 years, Stekl has served in various volunteer roles, including as the organization’s president, vice president and fundraising director. Allen Stekl boards a plane with the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, which he has volunteered with for 10 years. (Allen Stekl)

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