Wisconsin’s veterans visit their memorials and reflect on the moments no one there will soon forget.
Ironically, it was a trip that almost wasn’t, as parts of this weekend’s Badger Honor Flight were threatened by the just-ended federal government shutdown.
Maybe that’s why the welcoming committee seemed a little bigger and their cheers a little louder as Wisconsin’s veterans left Madison Saturday for Washington, D.C.
Badger Honor Flight, a regional affiliate of the national Honor Flight Network, ensures that veterans have the opportunity to see the memorials that have been erected in their honor.
The Honor Flight Network provides all amenities to the veterans, including all transportation, meals, and lodging.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then many moments this weekend were priceless.
88 of the veterans that left Saturday soaked in tradition and wrapped in well-wishes were from Wisconsin.
The two-hour Honor Flight and trip that followed was the organization’s 13th trip of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War veterans.
”I know three people on this plane and I'm looking forward to meeting a lot more of them,” said Don Schneider of Neilsville.
But little did Schneider know about the people waiting to meet him.
The group enjoyed an overwhelming welcome to the nation’s capital that would soon turn solemn after the group arrived at their first stop, Arlington National Cemetery, were more than 300,000 men and women are buried.
That’s not far from the Marine Corps Memorial, where the group had their picture taken, and where Spring Green native Francis Feiner made a confession.
“I guess I have to, not lie, but I have to admit it really wasn't my idea,” Feiner said, admitting that it was his daughter who encouraged him to take the trip.
The World War II Memorial was also a stop at which to reflect and remember, and for others, to reconnect at a corner of the world where they all have a little something in common.
“My favorite part today was meeting American people that have compassion for a generation that fought for our country and is still in their hearts, their minds, that they appreciate it and loved us for it and they'll never, never forget it,” said Wilson Krohn of Cottage Grove.
There were other monuments the group gathered at as well, then came some dancing at another ceremony before they headed home.
It was a memorable day, capped off by a final celebration that only Wisconsin could pull off.
Nearly 6,000 people packed the airport, perhaps the largest local gathering to ever have come out to say thank you to the greatest generation.
“It's an incredible thing, it's just heartfelt and you could just tell they all appreciated we came out here,” said one admirer at the airport.
Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for more stories on the Badger Honor Flight.