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Community honors local veterans with trip of a lifetimeSubmitted: 02/27/2014
Story By Lauren Stephenson

Community honors local veterans with trip of a lifetime
EAGLE RIVER - They served. They sacrificed.

Now two Korean War veterans from Eagle River will get to visit the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Thursday Eagle River Elementary School students surprised the veterans with the news.

"It was quite an experience, you know. I was from a little town in southern Wisconsin and it was quite a trip across the ocean," said Korean War Veteran Art Collien.

But, the adventure came with a lifetime of difficult memories.

"It's something you don't talk about a lot. I wrote some letters to mothers, and parents, wives," recalled Korean War Veteran Merton Jensen.

Collien and Jensen both served in the Army.

They also both fought in the Korean War.

And Thursday the Eagle River men both received quite an honor.

Eagle River Elementary students presented the veterans with their tickets for the Never Forgotten Honor Flight.

It's a program that gives veterans a free trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the war memorials.

The Eagle River Area Fire Department and Eagle River Elementary teachers and staff each raised $500 to sponsor the veterans.

"Knowing that we're sending a former firefighter [Collien] from Eagle River on it is really a great honor. We had no idea who was going to be picked. We were just willing to do a sponsorship for a vet from the local area," explained Eagle River Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Bonson.

"It's really important to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in all of these kids that are so young and impressionable. And the biggest thing is we want kids to be able to walk up to a veteran and say, 'Thank you for your service,'" said teacher Sarah Simac.

"Elated. That's the only word I could think of. Very, very proud, and very, very happy about it," said Jensen.

"It was quite emotional there for a while...this'll be my first time...It'll probably be emotional, too."

Both the men are grateful for the chance to see the Korean War Memorial for the first time.

But those on hand to celebrate believed it was a small gesture of thanks to two men who risked their lives in the service to our country.

"Without their service, we wouldn't feel - I wouldn't feel real safe...Everyone should appreciate the veterans," explained 5th grader Mika Tinstman.

Merton Jenson will travel to Washington, D.C. April 14th.

Art Collien will take the Honor Flight May 19th.

Related Weblinks:
Never Forgotten Honor Flight

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