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NEWS STORIES

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

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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: 11/26/2014

- The Northwoods teaching assistant accused of having sex with an underage teen reached a plea deal. Find out more tonight on Newswatch 12.

- Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) wants a spot on the legislature's powerful budget committee. Find out which Northwoods lawmaker beat him to it.

- It's a double whammy for cranberry growers in the Northwoods " a smaller harvest, and lower cranberry prices. What the U.S. government is doing about it, tonight on Newswatch 12.

- Your organization can get some free help solving a challenge or working on a project. 16 members of the Leadership Oneida County program are spending 9 months getting to know the services and organizations in the county.

- And success keeps coming for a musician native to Eagle River. Autumn Skibinski and her band "Only on Tuesdays" started a Kickstarter campaign back in July to help fundraise for an Extended Play (EP) album. Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino in Watersmeet, Michigan donated the full amount to Autumn's band. The band completed work on the project, and released the EP Tuesday. We'll have reaction from Autumn on her group's success coming up tonight.

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

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Wetland restoration plan broadens options for DNR, permit seekersSubmitted: 11/26/2014

WISCONSIN - The Wisconsin DNR puts an emphasis on keeping the state's wetland system healthy.

People and organizations now have a new option for addressing wetland damage because of construction.

When people or businesses fill in wetlands, they have to get a permit.

Before, they could restore other wetlands or buy credits from what are called wetland mitigation banks.

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Eagle River native releases album with her bandSubmitted: 11/26/2014

EAGLE RIVER - A Northland Pines graduate keeps finding success as a musician.

Autumn Skibinski started a Kickstarter campaign back in June for her band "Only on Tuesdays."

It's helped finance her band's extended play album.

Now, that record, entitled "Break Free," was released this week.

The group credits the generosity of complete strangers for the revenue.

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Bakeries in the Northwoods prepare for ThanksgivingSubmitted: 11/26/2014

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ST. GERMAIN - Not many "made from scratch" bakeries exist in the Northwoods.

But, the ones that do are busy preparing treats for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

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Northwoods woman accused of having sex with son's underage friend reaches plea dealSubmitted: 11/26/2014

VILAS COUNTY - The former Northwoods teaching assistant accused of having sex with an underage teen reached a plea deal in Vilas County Court on Wednesday.

41-year-old Jody Shepherd pled no contest to a felony charge of second degree sexual assault of a child under 16.

A second count was dismissed as part of the deal.

Shepherd was a special ed teaching assistant at North Lakeland School in Manitowish Waters.

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Small Business Saturday: why stores want you to shop localSubmitted: 11/26/2014

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RHINELANDER - Following Thanksgiving Day shopping and after Black Friday, Northwoods businesses hope you'll stick around for one more shopping day- Small Business Saturday.

The day encourages shoppers to stay local and help businesses in the community.
Small Business Saturday first began in 2010.

Last year consumers spent about $5.7 billion at independent stores.

Shops like Imaginuity in Rhinelander have jumped on board to bring in customers.

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Intriguing projects neededSubmitted: 11/26/2014

ONEIDA COUNTY - Your organization can get some free help solving a challenge or working on a project.

Sixteen members of the Leadership Oneida County program are spending nine months getting to know the services and organizations in the county.

One of their requirements for graduation is to complete a community project by this coming May.

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