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'."
WISCONSIN - Turkey season began last week and hunters have a new option for what they can do with the turkeys they shoot.
The DNR started a turkey donating program this year.
You can donate turkey's to three processors in the southern half of the state.
"A little bit further south of here in areas where there's usually a lot of deer donations and a lot of turkey shot so that we can try and get some good participation for the first year," said DNR's Wildlife Biologist, Jeremy Holtz.
RHINELANDER - People with developmental disorders can hear plenty of negatives when it comes to succeeding in school. That's why a Northwoods school offers a program to help these students prove the doubters wrong.
Nicolet College offers Jump! Start, which helps people with special needs go to college and prepare for the workforce.
College student Ashley Mathy has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition listed on the autism spectrum.
As a high school senior, she was told she would never make it to college because she would fail.
"You're going to have failures. You're going to have people tell you that you can't do things all the time whether you have a disability or you don't have one. And you just have to prove them wrong because if you don't, then you'll just let failure take you away," said Mathy.
RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry hopes you'll sample some of the area's best salads and win some prizes on Saturday.
The pantry is hosting the Garden Fresh Salad Bowl event at Holiday Acres. It's a fundraiser for the pantry, and several local restaurants are participating.
"It should be a very nice event. It's a beautiful setting," said Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Executive Director Guy Hansen. "We've got 12 different restaurants that have contributed salads toward this."
About half of the crowd will win handcrafted door prizes from the Northwoods Turners. The event runs from 11 to 1. Tickets are available at the food pantry, CT's Deli, Forth Floral, and People's State Bank.
TOMAHAWK - Unless you find yourself in trouble, you don't usually sit down and talk with a cop.
The Tomahawk Police Department held its monthly Coffee with a Cop meeting Wednesday morning.
It gives people the chance to pull up a chair and talk to Chief Al Elvins about their questions or concerns.
Those concerns change with the season.
Warmer weather means kids will be out of school soon and there'll be more foot traffic.
And don't forget about those motorcycles.
"Watch out for the motorcycles. So often they hit a blind spot on us and you don't see them. If you are driving a bike, be aware of your surroundings. Remember that four wheels don't always see your two wheels," said Chief Elvins.
The city's drug takeback will be open all day on Saturday. The department does it twice a year.
You can bring in any over the counter or prescription drugs to the station's drop-off box.
RHINELANDER - Nothing gets the competitive juices flowing like racing to fix a car's fuse box. Nicolet College in Rhinelander hosted 12 Northwoods high schools for some friendly competition with a specific goal in mind.
The competitions varied from auto skills to welding to even cupcake baking. The goal was for students to begin thinking about college.
"Getting to see the inner workings of a vehicle, getting to work and learn at the same time, it makes me think more about college and what I want to do with my future," said Crandon sophomore, Kegan Wilson.
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