Isanti dentist, World War II vet visits D.C. on honor flight

An Isanti dentist recently enjoyed a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. courtesy St. Cloud Honor Flight and Freedom Flight.

Dr. Francis Ryan of Gentle Dental Care in Isanti, a World War II veteran, recently took a trip free of charge with other veterans to Washington, D.C. to view memorials courtesy St. Cloud Honor Flight and Freedom Flight. Here he is pictured with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. Photos submitted

World War II veteran Dr. Francis Ryan, with a group of 100 veterans, were treated to a round-trip flight and tour of the World War II, Korean, Vietnam, Lincoln, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Women in Military Service Memorials on April 28.

“We went down there for the day and came back that night,” he said. “It was a busy day.”

Ryan met U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar while he was there, but it was visiting the memorials that was most profound to him. Ryan had someone take a photo of him in front of the Freedom Wall of the World War II Memorial—the wall holds 4,048 gold stars, each one representing 100 American service personnel who died or remain missing in the war, a total of 405,399.

Dr. Francis Ryan poses in front of the Freedom Wall at the World War II Memorial.

“I felt kind of nostalgic,” he said. “You think of all those people who died, and you get flashback memories of blood and guts in the mud. I was in combat and I was wounded in combat.”

Dr. Ryan served from 1944 to 1946. He found out about the honor flight through a chance meeting with someone at a grocery store who asked if he was a World War II veteran. When Ryan said yes, the man encouraged him to apply for a trip to Washington, D.C. at no charge.

The only reason Ryan and the other veterans brought money was to buy souvenirs; flight, tour bus, meals and guardians were taken care of.

At the World War II Memorial, Dr. Francis Ryan stands in front of words etched in stone that say, “Freedom is not free.”

“This is a tribute to you for all the sacrifice you’ve endured so that the rest of us can live free,” Director of St. Cloud Honor Flight James Tuorila stated in a letter to Ryan. Honor flights are made possible through donations.

When they arrived in Washington, Ryan recalls the group being applauded by dozens or hundreds of greeters shaking their hands—he even received a handmade thank you card from a young student.

Ryan said he had been to Washington once before, but it was so long ago that he didn’t remember much from that trip, and the World War II Memorial hadn’t been built yet. He’s glad to have seen the memorials, especially the one in his honor.

“I was quite impressed with the World War II Memorial because it was so big,” Ryan said.