A True Honor: Flying with the Badger Honor Flight
by John Wells
Last year during our Salute to America Night we were joined by several volunteers from the Badger Honor Flight, one of many such groups around the country that honor our veterans from World War 2 and now the Korean War with a "honor" flight to Washington, DC. I was able to interview some of those responsible for making the Honor Flight a reality.
As I actively listened to their message that night, I thought about my 88 year old father and seeing him get the opportunity to join the Badger Honor Flight.
You can imagine how excited I was when earlier this year he told me he was selected to join the trip for the May 4th flight to Washington, DC and wanted me to join him as his guardian.
After participating in a training session a couple of weeks prior to the trip (learning how to go up stairs, escalators, push wheel chairs, etc) I found out that at least two others from his home town would be making the trip too. As guardians we were given strict orders to stay close to our veterans the entire time..I would be scolded a couple of times for letting my dad get too far ahead of me on the trip! I also realized what a tremendous network of volunteers make up the Badger Honor Flight crew with literally hundreds on hand to make sure all of the guardians received proper training.
On the big day it meant getting up at 3:30 AM to be at the airport by 4:30. No problem for me since my days typically begin about 4:15 on most days. Once we arrived we were again greeted by volunteers including several Boy Scouts from my home town.
Everyone went to great lengths to show appreciation for these WW2 / Korean War veterans by thanking them for their service. This would conintue throughout the day both in Madison and in our nation's capital. To see the look on all of the veteran's faces was priceless. At times it might have been overwhelming. You have to realize that all of the veterans were in their 80's or older. My dad wasn't the oldest in the group as a couple of gentlemen going with us were 96 years young.
The experience in DC was amazing. The volunteers from Badger Honor Flight were absolutely amazing in that they had everything covered from meals to meds to transportation needs. Words cannot say enough for those who give of their time so that others can experience this journey.
We started our day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery then it was off to the Iwo Jima statue, WW2 Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam and Korean Memorials before ending the day at the Air Force Memorial. With a police escort leading our four bus caravan around the city, we were easily able to see all the sites and return to Madison the same day.
While visiting many of the sites people were there to greet the veterans with applause, hand shakes, and kind words.
The highlight of the day was yet to come.
Arriving back at Madison around 9:00 PM the veterans were greeted by well over 2,000 well wishers in the terminal. Seeing the veterans come down the escalator to the cheers of the crowd left me speechless. Seeing our family and friends of my dad in the crowd meant so much to him including the Colony Brands poster with his picture on it.
I know not everyone will have the opportunity to participate in this experience, but I highly encourage you to contribute your time or a financial contribution to the Badger Honor Flight. You see, all of the veterans travel free thanks to these contributions.
To all of the volunteers who made this trip possible I say thank you!
For more information check out their website at Badger Honor Flight