WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ninety one local veterans took the trip of a lifetime to the nation's capitol yesterday. The Never Forgotten Honor Flight made its thirteenth trip to Washington D.C.
Newswatch 12's Lyndsey Stemm got to go with them. The veterans shared their stories and wisdom with her-- and perhaps most memorably-- they shared their experiences yesterday.
We'd like to share those with you this week. Tonight, meet Andy.
"Doing a lot of tears, I'll tell you. Because I'm proud of those guys. I don't care how much we served, or how much we suffered; they paid the absolute price," says Andy DeFelice, from Nekoosa.
Andy served with the U.S. Army in the 60's. Normally, that would put him lower on the list-- The Never Forgotten Honor Flight takes the oldest veterans to Washington D.C. first. But Andy is one of three special veterans on the trip.
"You know, I've been a sick man. It's part of the reason I'm here, because I'm a very sick man with Leukemia and Prostate Cancer, and no stomach," says Andy.
Andy's one of three terminally ill Vietnam era vets along for this trip. It's the war he identifies with most, though he served mostly in Germany through the start of Vietnam. Even so, there was no shortage of action in his service.
"We had a great opportunity with "Operation Big Lift", when they airlifted all those troops over on maneuvers," says Andy.
He regrets not keeping in touch with those Army buddies. But that makes this trip with 90 other veterans all the more special.
"Once you're in the service you're in a brotherhood you'll never, ever loose. That's just the way it is. I don't care if you're Army, Navy, Marines or what. You're a brotherhood. That's what I loved about it and I still do," says Andy.
Andy saw the trip as an opportunity to pay tribute to people who died in battle. He couldn't believe anyone would want to honor his service. But his arrival in Washington proved him wrong.
Forty eight years after he left the Army, Andy got to see the memorial built to honor his generation of service men and women. What struck him most was seeing all the names of those who were lost.
"Sadness and shock of all these lives. It's just a waste... a waste," says Andy.
Like many veterans, some memories from war time still follow him. But what haunts him is how other soldiers were affected.
"The way those guys were treated when they came back from Nam; I'll never forget that. Because when you serve, you serve your country. And that's what those guys did. That's the sad part. I don't know, words can't express the way I feel about these guys. All of these guys. And this trip and what everybody's done for us," says Andy.
Seeing the memorial makes him feel like they're finally being treated properly.
"It's time. It's time for all of those troops. God bless them," says Andy.
But the Honor Flight folks didn't let Andy get away without his own fair share of being honored. When they got back from the trip he and his 90 brothers-in-arms got the hero's welcome many veterans didn't get all those years ago.
Tomorrow night we'll go along with the veterans to the World War Two memorial. It was the last of the major wars to get a memorial in D.C. You'll get to meet Joe, from Tomahawk. He'll tell us why he joined his four brothers in the war, even though he didn't have to.
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Ruby's pantry opened their doors Tuesday in Lac du Flambeau. This is the first time the Ruby's pantry has set up shop there. They decided to come to Lac du Flambeau because of the good turnout in Rhinelander. The food pantry asks that people give a $20 donation.
“It's not your typical food pantry,” says Gloria Cobb, Ruby's Pantry Lac du Flambeau Lead Coordinator. “This is an opportunity to give people dignity, to serve with dignity, and it's a donation base.”
“I mean look at the hustle and bustle going on we've got the community coming together not only Lac du Flambeau but the surrounding community coming together to meet a very basic need and that's to help with hunger,” says Cobb.
The pantry offered items like strawberries, cake mix, and toilet paper. More than 400 people were expected to show up.
“A participant will go through the line with a laundry basket and or box and they will be offered items,” says Cobb. “They can refuse them however we will encourage them to take the item because somebody else that they may know may have a need.”
“They get a certain amount of each item and they go through the line like an assembly line,” says Cobb.
The pantry had more than 21,000 pounds of food to give away.
RHINELANDER - The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group held a seminar at Nicolet College in Rhinelander Tuesday, to plan how to make Wisconsin more attractive to skilled workers and manufacturing businesses.
WMC's president believes the shortage in younger people in the industry has to do with two big misconceptions about manufacturing.
"The younger kids, as do their parents, have a perception on what manufacturing looks like and it's about 40 years out of date. If you're in an advanced manufacturing facility now, it's clean, it's high-tech, the engineers and technicians are working together," said Jim Morgan."We have a perception problem. I think we still have a definition of success that's says unless you have a four-year degree, you're not successful."
Morgan says groups like WMC work to change that perception. He believes workers with a two-year degree are just as successful in the industry.
So far, WMC held seminars at nine other technical colleges. For Rhinelander, more manufacturers could mean more economic independence.
"The Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce is looking to see how it can help and partner with local manufacturers to make the Rhinelander area a more favorable place for them to locate their businesses, as well as to attract and retain skilled workers to make those businesses successful," said Dana DeMet, Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce director.
Over the next six months, WMC will continue to look for ways to attract more workers and businesses to the state.
In December, it hopes to have 1000 representatives for a meeting in Milwaukee focusing on how manufacturing will benefit the state.
WMC also works with the University of Wisconsin system and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges.
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