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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: 12/09/2016

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

The lakes are expected to freeze soon, and many people are anxious to get out on the ice. However there are things you should keep in mind when heading out on the frozen lakes. Tonight we talk to a DNR warden about tips for staying safe on the ice.

A Rhinelander elementary school will be purchasing $2,000 worth of chrome books. We'll tell you how the students earned the funding.

We'll show you how a Woodruff company decorated the Governor's Mansion in Madison.

And tonight on Friday Night Blitz we'll bring you scores from high school games all across North Central Wisconsin as well as highlights from the following basketball games:

Boys:

Antigo vs. Lakeland

Crandon vs. Tomahawk

D.C. Everest vs. Merrill


Girls:

Laona/Wabeno vs. Crandon

That will be tonight on Friday Night Blitz at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10.


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

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MADISON - The recount of Wisconsin's presidential election vote is nearly finished.

State election officials announced Friday that 89 percent of total ballots cast for president have been counted and 60 of the state's 72 counties had finished their work. So far, Democrat Hillary Clinton has gained 49 votes on Republican Donald Trump, who defeated Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in

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WOODRUFF - Gov. Scott Walker won't spend much time away from pieces of the Northwoods while in Madison this Christmas season.

The State Capitol Christmas tree came from Eagle River. Meanwhile, JJ's Acres of Woodruff decorated the outside of the Governor's Mansion with pine roping and wreaths.

The garden center also helped with holiday decorations at the mansion in 2013.

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OUTAGAMIE COUNTY - Two people died when a dump truck drove through a stop sign west of Green Bay Thursday afterrnoon.

The truck hit a car at the intersection of two county roads in Outagamie County.

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RHINELANDER - Twenty-two-year-old Tessa Szmania wanted to work full-time as graphic designer. She also wanted to live in Rhinelander.

It turns out she couldn't have both.

Szmania got an associate's degree in graphic design from Nicolet College in Rhinelander in 2013. Then, things got tough.

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LANSING, MI - Michigan lawmakers may re-enact a wolf-hunting law declared unconstitutional by the state appeals court.

The Republican-led Senate voted 27-10 along party lines Thursday to define wolves as a game species and to authorize the state to designate game. The bill goes to the House.

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RHINELANDER - Cupcakes and donuts might sound like a recipe for packing on some pounds, but a Rhinelander man is blazing his way through social media by showing off healthy spins on those tasty treats.

The man behind the apron is Dustin Chronister, known as "The Flexible Baker" on the social media platform, Instagram.

Chronister has over 30,000 followers from all over the world.

Chronister posts photos of his healthy treats, then the likes and followers flood in.

"It is super humbling because I never expected it, but it's refreshing," said Chronister.

Chronister is a competitive weight lifter.

To maintain a certain weight, he knew he couldn't eat his favorite traditional desserts.

Chronister decided to create recipes using alternative ingredients like adding protein and sugar substitutes.

Many of his recipes are less than 100 calories.

"I had to figure how to enjoy those sweets and maintain that healthy lifestyle. Then this was born. I just wanted to have my cake and eat it too, and kept it rolling after that," said Chronister.

Chronister recently wrote a second e-book with all his healthy recipes, so he continues to post pictures on Instagram every day.

He reminds people to be "flexible" and find balance in their diets.

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