Loading

28°F

31°F

29°F

27°F

25°F

30°F

29°F

34°F

25°F

31°F

34°F

29°F
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

VILAS COUNTY - Voters can still cast their absentee ballots in person this week for the upcoming April 7 election. Voters have until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 3 to go to their municipal clerk's office to vote.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - It might not have felt like spring recently, by it is time to start thinking about your spring gardening.

It is still too early to plant outside, but you can get a jump on your garden by planting simple seeds like tomatoes, herbs, or marigolds.

+ Read More

Play Video

MERRILL - Ron Kautz prepares taxes for more than 800 clients every year from his office in Merrill.

This year, he's watching for something new while filling out their returns.

Kautz needs to know if they have health insurance.

This is the first cycle in which the federal government taxes people for not having health insurance.

+ Read More

Play Video

MADISON - More people nationwide use ridesharing smartphone apps like Uber to get around.

Those apps match people who need a ride with certified drivers who use their own cars.

The popularity of the apps has led some Wisconsin lawmakers to propose legislation that creates statewide rules and regulations.

+ Read More

Play Video

MERRILL - The Household Abuse Victims Emergency Network (HAVEN) provides shelter and services for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in Lincoln County.

But more and more, HAVEN is looking for ways to help clients with another issue - addiction.

Since about 2012, the number of clients with addictions has shot up.

Addictions to heroin, meth, and prescription drugs seem to be the most common.

+ Read More

Play Video

TOMAH - A hearing today will look into complaints that patients at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah received too many narcotic drugs.

A pair of U.S. House and Senate committees will hold a joint field hearing today in Tomah.

+ Read More

Play Video

VILAS COUNTY - Despite your votes to make Vilas County the "Best Cabin Region" in the country, the county fell short.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here