Loading

63°F

59°F

64°F

61°F

65°F

65°F

64°F

62°F

65°F

64°F

62°F

64°F
Search
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'."



Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

WAUSAU - Eighty-one Wisconsin veterans are back home from the trip of a lifetime.

They all participated in the 19th Never Forgotten Honor Flight to Washington, DC.

+ Read More

Play Video

TOWN OF SKANAWAN - A pair of proposed gravel pit mines could significantly change one area in Lincoln County. The mine sites would cover approximately 125 acres in the Town of Skanawan, southeast of Tomahawk. Experts believe the area has an extremely rich deposit, but some people worry the project will hurt the environment and grow larger than what the county could approve.

+ Read More

GREEN BAY - Seventy people need a new place to stay after a fire at a Green Bay apartment complex.

All residents of the Sand and Sun apartments evacuated safely.


+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Fields of an invasive plant called phragmites stand all along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shore. Invasive species workers hope most of the plants stay away from the Northwoods.

But workers chopped down a stand of phragmites on Monday on Highway 8 just west of Rhinelander. The stand had been chemically treated in the fall, a step that workers hope will help control the spread of the species.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - Many people enjoy freshly roasted coffee. But, the process to roast those coffee beans can be a science.

"We start with green coffee. It comes in 130 to 155 pound sacks of coffee," said owner of Eagle River Roasters Dan Beihoff.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - Many Northwoods cities need to make improvements to the roads now that it's spring.

Rhinelander wants to do it, enough to impose a new sales tax.

Another local city will make improvements to the road and the pipes under the road.

Eagle River will replace infrastructure on Division Street.

Eagle River's mayor Jeff Hyslop says it's about 70 years old.

+ Read More

MILWAUKEE - Police have arrested four protesters who sat in the middle of a downtown Milwaukee intersection during a demonstration calling for more diversity at Marquette University.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here