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Honor Flight Missions Move From World War II To Vietnam-Era Veterans

Trips Take Vets To DC Memorials Free Of Charge

Glen Moberg/WPR

Honor Flight missions in central Wisconsin are now serving more Vietnam-era veterans than World War II veterans.

In 2010, the first mission by the Wausau-based Never Forgotten Honor Flight served 103 World War II veterans. Last week, the organization’s 28th flight served 86 Vietnam-era veterans and five Korean-era veterans. There were no veterans from World War II.

Honor Flight chapters began to spring up around the country 12 years ago in order to fly veterans free of charge to Washington D.C. so they could view the National World War II Memorial which had only recently been built.

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WW(I veterans pose in front of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C. on an early mission of the Never Forgotten Honor Flight in fall 2010.Glen Moberg/WPR

Never Forgotten Honor Flight co-founder Jim Campbell said many of America’s Honor Flight chapters are now serving veterans from the later wars as the aging WWII population dwindles.

“Many of us continued for the next generation,” Campbell said. “Some did not. Some honor flights flew all the WWII veterans in their area that wanted to go and then they closed up shop.”

Campbell, himself a Vietnam-era veteran, said the need is great.

“The way we were all treated when we came home, it’s 180 degrees different today,” he said. “Complete strangers all day long are thanking them for their service. And this is closure for these Vietnam-era guys that have been holding pain, discontent, for 50 years.”

Campbell said the Vietnam Veterans Memorial holds a special reverence, noting the “58,318 names on the wall,” with a sigh.

“You very seldom hear people talking, or they’re talking very low,” Campbell said. “And even if you don’t know a name on the wall, when you touch the wall, you can almost feel the warmth of the wall, that black marble.”

Campbell said that while the WWII and Korean War veterans tend to sign up for the flights individually, the Vietnam-era veterans are signing up in groups.

“They’re signing up with their buddies,” he said. “It’s good because a lot of these guys need support. They wouldn’t go by themselves.”

Each flight costs $85,000, raised by corporate and individual donations.

Honor Flight chapters are also based in Appleton, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee and Duluth.

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