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NEWS STORIES

Making the Honor Flight happenSubmitted: 09/13/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm


WASHINGTON, D.C. - How do you get 91 aging veterans -- 61 of them in wheelchairs -- to Washington D.C. and back in one day? That's what the Honor Flight did Monday.

Newswatch 12's Lyndsey Stemm went along. Today, she takes a look at how this massive project got started, and the people who make it happen.

"They went back to work on their tractors, and in the factories, and the post office and made this country what it is today. So the "greatest generation" is not overrated by any stretch of the imagination. They've earned my undying gratitude," says Mike Thompson, Co-Founder of the Never Forgotten Honor Flight.

The "greatest generation"... many of us know them as our fathers; our grandfathers. The Honor Flight began because Washington D.C. finally had a WWII memorial. But many veterans from that war are getting too old to travel easily.

Mike Thompson and Jim Campbell started the Northern Wisconsin chapter. But they knew they were fighting time, so they started big.

"We knew the youngest WWII veteran was 82 years old. So without a nickel to our name we decided we needed $80,000 to fly. And at a sprinters pace we started the marathon to fly in five months," says Mike.

Thirteen trips later nearly 1,200 local veterans have gotten to see the memorials built in their honor. Many of those veterans have substantial health needs. But medical volunteers make it possible for them to go too.

"I've got to watch over these guys. Somehow they got old on us and so some of them aren't doing so well. So I spend a lot of time trying to make sure they're having an OK day. Managing oxygen, managing diabetes, you know, whatever we need to do," says Dr. Ryan Gossett, a volunteer medic who's been on every flight since it began.

It's a long day. It wouldn't happen without the scores of volunteers that help see the group off and welcome them home.

"It's really kind of thrilling to see these vets and the volunteers. I think giving back is very important. So that's why I volunteer, because I didn't go to war. But I'm here because they did," says Ann Lucas, a Volunteer from Wausau.

Many veterans resist going on the trip at first. Some don't feel like they played a big enough role in the war they were in.

"Whether it's the guys that were driving up on the beaches, or the guys delivering mail, they all served a role. And we try to help them appreciate that it's an entire system that needed to exist for the war effort," says Ryan.

Honoring that effort, however big or small, is the point of the honor flight. Anyone who didn't get the "thank you" and the "welcome home" they deserved will finally get one-- even if it is more than 60 years later.

Ryan remembers one vet who didn't even want to go home, "...he finally said, 'You know as soon as I go on that bus, I go back home and I'm the old guy that lives down the street. Today I'm a hero'. So that's what this is all about."

Mike remembers a vet from one of the first flights, "This veteran said, 'You know I got of that air plane and if I live to be 100 years old I'll never forget the sights and the sounds of that night'. He said, 'I feel like I won the war all by myself'."



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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 01/28/2015

- Railroads across Wisconsin could start fining people who walk along railroad tracks. It's an effort to save lives after one of the most deadly years in the state's travel history. Eight people died in train-involved deaths in 2014. Newswatch 12's Karolina Buczek went to the Tomahawk Railway to find out why there are so many accidents and what can be done to stop them.

- Police departments can use social media to help their communities. But if it's used the wrong way it could be dangerous. A traffic app called Waze can be used to warn other drivers about where police are in the area. But some officers are worried it could be used to target police. Newswatch 12s Kaitlyn Howe will have more from a Northcentral Wisconsin police chief about how he feels about the app.

- And find out about the "Snow Days Sweepstakes" put on by the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce.

We'll have the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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RACINE - Gov. Scott Walker says he's planning trips soon to the important 2016 presidential primary states of South Carolina, Nevada and Florida.

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WASHINGTON, DC - The director of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah says he had already taken steps to address reports of overmedication of patients before federal officials announced a review of prescription practices at the Wisconsin facility.

Tomah VA director Mario DeSanctis says his staff began looking into the unusually high rate of opiate prescriptions in 2012. In an interview with the La Crosse Tribune (http://bit.ly/1BxJtoY ) this week, DeSanctis says steps to institute solutions to the problem have already been taken.

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Prep your trees this winterSubmitted: 01/28/2015

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NORTHWOODS - Caring for your trees now could help keep forest healthier this spring and summer. Tree experts say that pruning during the winter poses less risk to your trees than during spring or summer. It will also help the tree maintain growth come spring.

"Folks are going to prune trees, it should be restricted to that period in which trees are dormant," said Steigerwaldt Analysis Operations Director Forrest Gibeault. "That dormancy period essentially is the same time when insects are very inactive and fungal disease is not going to spread."

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LANSING, MI - People will eventually be able to hike or bike from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the plans for the trail in 2012, and just this week, the trail got its name. It will be called the Iron Belle Trail.

The Michigan DNR held a three-week trail naming contest this past fall. It got nearly 9,000 entries.

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TOMAHAWK - Railroads across Wisconsin have started fining people who walk along railroad tracks. The policy changed in an effort to save lives after one of the most deadly years in the state's travel history.

Eight people died in train-involved deaths in 2014, six more than in 2013. And 2015 already saw its first train-related death when a Milwaukee man was hit and killed on January 2.

Railroad experts say many accidents happen because trains can't stop fast enough.

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ANTIGO - Gamers in Antigo can now head to the library to find video games. The Antigo Public Library added 30 video games to their shelves for the first time this month. Library managers think the games will help get teens through the library's doors.

"[The games] have improved artistically in the last few years quite a bit," explained Library Business Clerk Betsy Pilecky. "It might make [gamers] check out more books and do more research if they come in to look for the video games. They'll see the other books and it'll induce them to check out more."

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