WASHINGTON D.C. - Of the 95 veterans on Monday's Never Forgotten Honor Flight, only one served during World War II. Many veterans of that war are at least 90 or older. At that age, some don't think they can handle two flights and all the travel in one day. However, Earl Uecke, 92 of Lake Tomahawk, doesn't think other vets around his age should pass up the opportunity.
"When I see what they did, taking this one gentleman, who was not very mobile, I was most pleased that they were able to do that, to put him on the plane and off the plane and everything, they've done and exceptional job." Uecke said.
Uecke had been to Washington D.C. plenty of times before with his family, but he had never been to the memorials in the nation's capital. He also said WWII gave him the opportunity to see a new part of the world. "First of all, I was a kid from Wisconsin and had only been in three states until I got there, and until the Army sent me all over on the free trip overseas."
That free trip put Uecke in the European theatre. He didn't fight on the front line. Instead, his job was to drive important intelligence across the continent as a signal motor messenger. Uecke did his part and served his country. He remembers seeing the horrors of a concentration camp one day after it was liberated. But like so many people during that time period, he lost friends along the way.
"We had seven kids killed during World War II out of my high school graduating class," Uecke said. "And a couple of them were good close friends of mine."
Uecke thought of those men while visiting the WWII Memorial Monday with his son Gary. It was the 92-year-old's first time at the memorial.He said he was also pleased to see the Vietnam and Korean War vets on the trip east, but only one memorial was his favorite.
"The highlight to me was of course the World War II Memorial cause I'm a little prejudice," Uecke said. 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.
During that final highlight after a long day, the 92-year-old didn't need any help walking through the welcome home.
This is the second of a four-part series covering the 22nd Never Forgotten Honor Flight. The next story will run Friday on Newswatch 12 at 6 p.m.
RHINELANDER - Hodag Park received a sizable donation Thursday morning. New sand was dropped off to help the Rhinelander Parks Department grow the beach back to its original shape.
There were thousands of pounds of sand dropped off and spread out. There was a high need for this because of all the rain we've had this season.
"It was getting in pretty poor shape and washing out more and more, but this year especially, it just seems like we've lost a lot of sand. So now we're going to shape it up nicely and hopefully it'll last the year," said Rhinelander Parks Director, Jeremy Biolo.
All of that sand was donated and delivered by a company in Rhinelander.
"Musson Brothers, Inc. donated all the sand and they said we could help ourselves to as much as we want, which is unbelievable because this beach really needed some work," said Biolo. "Every little bit like that helps our community out and it improves the community. It's awesome that the Musson Brothers stepped up and would do that for us."
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