10 Under 40 Winner

Aaron Van Beek, CEO at Midwest Honor Flight

What are you working on now? 

I saw a need in Northwest Iowa, South Dakota, Northeast Nebraska, and Southwest Minnesota – Veterans were not having the time or the funds to see their memorials in Washington, D.C.  In 2017, I started the Midwest Honor Flight through the Honor Flight Network.  At the time, I was a 20-year-old college student studying to become an elementary teacher.  Midwest Honor Flight has orchestrated 15 successful missions, honoring more than 1,300 Veterans by May 2023 at no cost to them.  With more than 720 Veterans waiting to go, and more applying each day, we hope to continue funding and flying four flights each year.

What is your vision for the future?

If America thought it was important to build a memorial to their service and sacrifice, Midwest Honor Flight believes it’s important for them to visit their memorial before it’s too late.  We can never repay them for what they’ve done. An “Honor Flight Tour” is simply a small token of our appreciation for everything they’ve done.  Throughout their Midwest Honor Flight tour, the Veterans are thanked, recognized, and admired for their service.  They come home personally knowing how much their country loves them and respects them.  Veterans will never forget this gratitude and adoration.

What would you like to see happen in Siouxland?

Preserving the history of Siouxland while embracing new generations, cultures, and diversity is important.  Siouxland has such a rich history not only in the structures of downtown but also with the families that have lived here for generations.  We also have such a diverse community that has become part of Siouxland over the years.  Each person, each family, and each culture has a story to be told.  I would encourage storytelling that captures the experiences and perspectives of individuals from different cultural backgrounds. It would be great to create opportunities for community members, particularly elders and cultural leaders, to share their stories, memories, and traditions.

What are you doing to make that happen?

By sharing their stories, Veterans may help themselves process and understand their experiences and also help those around them get a glimpse into military service. We need reminders of what war and oppression truly look like, to stay the course and fight the good fight of freedom and liberty for all.  Preserving Veteran stories is an excellent way of showing our support and appreciation for all that our Veterans have done, and all that the military is still doing and sacrificing, all over the world.

How can people help you make that happen?

Encourage the Veterans that you know to share their story and to take their Honor Flight.  Oral histories and traditions are often passed down for generations. They tell more than just the dates and places of service; they bring to life the details.  By hearing history from the veterans who experienced it in living color, it not only makes those experiences all that more real, but it also enhances their stories. Those stories are no longer just dates and names in a history book, but the lives of a group of living, breathing humans and the valiant actions they took on behalf of freedom and country.

What quote or saying inspires you?

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – Ronald Reagan

Volunteer Organizations: Previously volunteer Director for Midwest Honor Flight for the first five years before being offered the CEO position (newly created), Siouxland Philanthropy Board, Wreaths Across America Sioux Center, Wreaths Across America South Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Freedom Festival Board, Midwest Veterans Fundraising Group Board, Lone Eagle Honor Flight volunteer, Honor Flight Network Volunteer Tour Guide.

The 2023 10 Under 40 was Sponsored by Security National Bank.

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