Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Never Forgotten Honor Flight provides new, comforting feelings for Vietnam vets at their memorialSubmitted: 10/14/2015
Story By Adam Fox


WASHINGTON D.C. - The first 21 Never Forgotten Honor Flights mostly hosted World War II and Korean War veterans, but a record 73 Vietnam War veterans made the trip east on the 22nd flight Monday. The flights connect northcentral Wisconsin veterans to their memorials in Washington D.C. For some veterans, it gave them the chance to experience a different feeling about their war and their memorial.




Jim Klapperich and John Willman were two of the 73 Vietnam War veterans who were able to make the trip. Klapperich is from Wausau and served in the 101st Airborne Division during his time overseas. Willman lives in Stetsonville and served in the Navy in Vietnam.

Both hold different memories and experiences from their time in Vietnam, but they share similar memories of an unappreciated return home.

"We were told to get our uniforms off, I was called a baby burner, and [I was] spit on," Willman said with the Vietnam War Memorial in the distance.

It sadly was a common happening in a divided nation, and it's a situation Klapperich also faced returning from war, but it isn't the only memory that sticks around.

Willman supported ground troops like Klapperich as a gunner on an offshore aircraft carrier. He used powerful guns to help, and Willman says, many times land troops were getting overrun by the enemy when they were radioing in for help.

"They wanted you to immediately fire on them," Willman said. "They didn't care because they were going to die anyway."

Willman said he'd pray he didn't hit the good guys in those situations. It's something that still impacts him today.

"Some people think it's kind of easy just to push the button and you can walk away. You don't walk away, not if you have a head on your shoulders or something in your heart," Willman said.

Klapperich also can't just walk away from his war memories either. The Wausau man saw combat during his time in Vietnam from 1969-70. He also saw a fellow soldier die in battle.
 
"I'm not sure I came away from the war with any real solid friends, but we were all buddies and we all covered each other's back. And that felt like kind of a failure," Klapperich said.

Those memories flooded back for Klapperich and Willman when they first visited the Vietnam War Memorial years ago. But on Monday, both said the experience felt different.

"When I'm here with the 70 other veterans, it suddenly was just kind of comforting," Klapperich said.
It gave Klapperich enough comfort to etch a name for the first time. He also left behind a 101st Airborne Division patch and a quarter, saying the quarter signified he was with his comrade when he died.

"I've always been close, but it's more comforting now than it's ever been," Klapperich said.

But it wasn't just the presence of other veterans making the experience better. Complete strangers from Texas and other parts of the U.S. thanked vets for their service as they walked along the memorial.
Willman said the day felt like a celebration to remember those who didn't make it home.

"And it's not an us-against-them thing," Willman said. "I had that vibe before, and I don't have that today."
Willman added the feeling made him feel good. Like their new experience at their memorial, things felt comforting coming home.

The group was greeted by hundreds of veterans, family members, strangers and others as they returned home to Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee after a tolling day of travel.

Asked whether this return home was better than his return from Vietnam, Klapperich smiled and said, "It's much better."

This is the first of a four-part series covering the 22nd Never Forgotten Honor Flight. The next story will run Thursday on Newswatch 12 at 6 p.m.


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





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

RHINELANDER - You can watch fake doctors perform fake surgeries on TV almost any night of the week.  It's not every day you get to watch an actually surgery performed.

Students from the Northwoods learned their experience Wednesday was not for the faint of heart.

High school and college students filled the Nicolet College Theater in Rhinelander to watch a live stream of an open heart surgery.  Doctors, nurses, and other surgical staff from a hospital in Illinois were on camera and answered questions as they put in a left ventricular assistive device in a 37-year-old man's heart.

+ Read More

Play Video

VILAS COUNTY - Last August, a Vilas County man threatened to shoot or drown himself, leading to a standoff with police.

Wednesday, 49-year-old Mark Mayo pled guilty to intentionally firing a firearm at a law enforcement officer and operating a firearm while intoxicated.

Last August, Mayo called the Vilas County Sheriff's Office saying he had been drinking, taking prescription pills, and had a gun.

According to police, Mayo said if he saw officers, he would shoot them.

+ Read More

Play Video

MINOCQUA - Minocqua's Northwoods Zip line Adventure Tours added new attractions for the upcoming season in hopes of bringing more people to the Northwoods.

The Northwoods Zip Line Adventure Tours has been a travel destination for thrill seekers around the country.

Owner Josh Russart wanted to bring an extreme outdoor activity to the Northwoods.

"We have something for everyone," said Russart.

But Russart wasn't content with just zip lining. He added more attractions every year since he opened the canopy tours in 2014. Last summer he added an aerial adventure tour.

General manager Andrew Warner says it's a mix of an obstacle course and zip lining.

"Our aerial adventure is going to offer a little bit more of a challenge for people that maybe are a little bit more of a thrill seeker," said Warner.

But Warner says not to worry if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground

+ Read More

Play Video

SCHOFIELD - Today begins the second and final day of ceremonies for fallen Everest Metro Police Detective Jason Weiland.

People already have begun saying their goodbyes.

Funeral services take place DC Everest High School.

You can find a link to a YouTube stream of the funeral services below.

+ Read More

Play Video

CRESCENT - Once Eurasian Water Milfoil invades a lake, it likely won't ever leave a lake.

The invasive species has slowly been making its way into lakes here in the Northwoods.

It first occurred in Squash Lake in Oneida County in 2009. The Lake Association had luck containing the plant by using divers.

"We decided to use divers to pull Eurasian Water Milfoil. Over the years we've worked with divers to do that. It cost roughly $25,000 a year to do that," said Squash Lake Association Board Member Craig Zarley.

+ Read More

CRANDON - A woman charged with helping sneak prescription pills into the Forest County Jail will need several thousand dollars to get out of jail.

52-year-old Patricia Kirker had her initial appearance in Crandon on Thursday.  Police say she supplied 20 pills for an inmate on work release to sell in the jail.

+ Read More

MADISON - The Wisconsin Legislature's budget-writing committee is tackling roads funding, tax cuts and Medicaid on the second of three days of state agency briefings.

The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday was also to hear from Attorney General Brad Schimel and the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here