Last week, World War II veteran Syd Faulks received the homecoming he had never received.
He was among the approximately 80 veterans, including several others from the area, on board the Old Glory Honor Flight from Oshkosh to Washington, D.C.
In Oshkosh, they received a military send-off, and in Washington, D.C., they were greeted by members of the military when they got off the American Airlines plane. That was followed by a standing ovation in the airport.
“It was awesome,” Faulks said.
For many of the veterans, what happened last Thursday, July 29, differed from the homecoming they received when they were discharged from the war. Most of the veterans received no homecoming.
“It was very great,” he said of last week’s experience. “It was totally different than when we got discharged 60 years ago.”
The 85-year-old Faulks was discharged from the war in November 1945 and had to hitchhike home to Weyauwega from the Great Lakes naval station outside of Chicago. He was 20 years old.
Faulks already had three older brothers in the war when he enlisted. His mother had to sign for him.
He was a radio operator in the U.S. Navy and was on four different merchant vessels. He served a total of two years and eight months.
Faulks learned about the Old Glory Honor Flight program at last year’s Waupaca County Fair and then signed up for it.
The program was founded about five years ago by Earl Morse of Enon, Ohio. He is a physician’s assistant and a pilot who started the program as a way to get his patients, who were World War II veterans, to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Initially, veterans made the trips in rented planes. Since then, airlines have volunteered.
American Airlines donated an airplane and crew for last week’s trip.
It was the fourth flight out of northeastern Wisconsin and the first out of Oshkosh – taking place during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA’s) AirVenture convention. The plane left Oshkosh around 9 a.m. and within an hour and a half it landed in Washington, D.C.
Faulks’ flight was free. His son Robert was his guardian for the day.
Guardians receive a session of training before the day of the flight and must pay for their flight.
Syd and his wife, Ardys, have four children, making it difficult for him to decide who to ask to be his guardian. He chose Robert, wanting to have some one-on-one time with him.
After landing in Washington, D.C., they boarded a bus and went to the World War II Memorial.
“It was 93 degrees,” Faulks said. “We had one hour at the World War II Memorial. By the time we got back to the bus, the rain started.”
During the trip, veterans also received “mail call,” which was a packet of letters written by family and friends about what freedom means to them.
Faulks said they were treated well throughout the day.
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh football players helped get the veterans on to the plane in Oshkosh, and the veterans and their families enjoyed a dinner under a big tent with music by a 14-piece band upon their return to EAA.
Faulks described the World War II Memorial as outstanding.
“It brought back the memory of the things we had done in the past,” he said. “It was just a great tribute to the veterans by this organization.”