WASHINGTON D.C. - The Never Forgotten Honor Flight can celebrate after reaching the 2000th person milestone for the number of veterans they've flown to Washington D.C.
The group flew its 2004th veteran to Washington D.C. on the 22nd flight last Monday. It's a strong achievement for a group founded in 2009.
Secretary of the Never Forgotten Honor Flight Jeff Zriny uses words like dream and vision to describe the beginning of the group.
"We hoped we could fly some veterans to Washington D.C., we just didn't know how we could raise funds," Zriny said.
That was in 2009, and years later, things look like they're running smoothly.
"They're friendly, they're helpful and they've got this thing down to a science as far as I'm concerned," WWII Army veteran Earl Uecke of Lake Tomahawk said, "Everything just flows right along."
You could sense that flow weaving around Washington D.C. with the volunteers, organizers, and guardians. The goal is simple; Get veterans to their memorials. Organizers say each trip brings its own reward.
"People will say, 'You've done this 22 times, how can you be excited about this, and you're just going through the motions," Zriny said. "And it's just the smiles we see on their faces."
Many of those smiles on the 22nd flight were from Vietnam War veterans. 73 made the flight, but Zriny said nearly 400 sit on a waiting list. World War Two and Korean War vets aren't as easy to find these days, and organizers say the real challenge now is getting veterans to apply. Vietnam War Veteran Jim Klapperich, of Wausau, believes you don't need to be a war veteran or a combat veteran to deserve the trip.
"If you served, for every individual that was in combat, there were 11 guys that were providing support, and one couldn't do the job without the other 11," Klapperich said. "You deserve it, and it's worth it and it's something you've earned."
Some veterans don't always think they deserve the flight. However, organizers know they can help more veterans as long as the honor flight program keeps flying.
"The more we fly the more people will know about us and the more vets we can touch," Zriny said.
The continued flights will also help more veterans get the welcome home they deserve.
A link to applications for the Never Forgotten Honor Flight is below.
THREE LAKES - One teenager decided to spend a day giving back to the Three Lakes community 18-year-old Maxwell Blanchard lives in L.A but always makes it back to Three Lakes during the summer.
Blanchard learned how to water ski and wakeboard in Three Lakes at five years old.
On Sunday he spent the day giving free water skiing and wakeboarding lessons.
"[To] get someone new out there to ski or at least get them attempting. It's always fun when you get the kids who are a little nervous out there and a little shaky, then they get out there and they love it," said Blanchard.
Blanchard said every year the water sports community chooses a day to give back and participate in "International Pass the Handle Day."
Kylee Swendson decided to help Blanchard this year with the lessons.
"It's great for everybody to get a chance to learn especially people who don't get the opportunity every day," said Swendson.
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