War veterans throughout Dale, Medina and Readfield attended a special program for them at the Dale Town Hall, Nov. 3. Dale Historical Society members hosted the event.
Prior to the start of the program, Veterans mingled and visited with others. They enjoyed the visiting so much that it took a few minutes to get the program started as their conversations ended and they found their seats.
Bill Schroeder welcomed the Veterans and guests. There were around 50 people in attendance.
Tony and Lorraine Van Kampen of New London were guest speakers. They are spokespersons for the Old Glory Honor Flight out of Appleton. The flight takes World War II (WWII) Veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the WWII Memorial, as well as other monuments throughout the capital city.
Lorraine said more than 1,300 Veterans have taken Old Glory Honor Flights to Washington D.C. She said the flights will transition to Korean War Veterans in 2013, but WWII Veterans will always be at the top of the list. She said the group needs help finding the WWII Veterans who haven’t taken the flight yet.
In June, the Old Glory Honor Flight made a trip to Hawaii to visit Pearl Harbor. She said Pearl Harbor was chosen because it was events there that brought the United States into the war. To be considered a Pearl Harbor survivor they must have been within three miles of Pearl Harbor when the attack took place.
“Initially we started out contacting 40 Veterans [in Wisconsin],” Lorraine said. “We heard back from 23. Of those, 19 took off with us. One passed away in flight to Hawaii.”
She said the Veterans on the trip understood the passing, as they knew it could have been any of them.
The trip was five days long.
While in Hawaii the Veterans had a busy schedule. They visited the site of the USS Arizona, Fort Shafter and the Punchbowl National Cemetery, Tony said. They also had dinner on the deck of the USS Missouri.
“We were on the road by seven every morning and we got back about eight at night,” Tony said. “These guys were on the whirlwind.”
“The goal was to get them back to Pearl Harbor but they each got to visit where they were the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Lorraine added.
The Veterans also were allowed to take the White Boat Tour, which Lorraine said is typically restricted to military personnel.
“Because of the group we traveled with they were able to take that tour around Pearl Harbor and Ford Island,” Lorraine said.
As would be expected, it was an emotional trip for the Veterans.
“Some of them had never, ever been back to where this attack happened,” Lorraine said. “A gentleman who was on the USS Oklahoma when it was hit, this was his first time back. The emotions flew, but for many of them this was a healing process. This was the finality of the war to them. And at their age, they know they will probably never go back again.”
Memories also came rushing back to the Veterans who took part in the trip. Tony said one Veteran on the trip said he may not remember what happened a couple weeks ago, but he remembers that day like it happened yesterday.
“He remembers the name of every sailor who was on his ship – first name, last name and exactly where they are staying,” Tony said. “If you listen to him, close your eyes, you can see it on that day. His memory was unbelievable. He’s never forgot that day.”
A documentary about the trip was shown during the program. In that documentary a family member of the Veteran who passed away on the flight to Hawaii said he died happy because he was happy to be going on the trip.
A different documentary will be shown at the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. It’s open to the public with tickets at $10. Lorraine added that the goal is to get schools to show the documentary in their classrooms.
Vetrans from WWII, Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, Iraq War, Army Reserves and National Guards were then recognized at the program.