Wisconsin Vietnam vets get 2nd chance for hero's welcome

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Weather delays – but can’t stop – the trip of a lifetime.

After poor flying conditions forced a detour through Pittsburgh, 105 Wisconsonites -- veterans of Vietnam, Korea and World War II -- received a hero’s welcome in the nation’s capital.

“Well I tell you when we came through the airport it was really, really impressive,” said Vietnam veteran Bill Reed, “all the people that were clapping, it was really something.”

Reed said that’s a far different reception than the one many of his fellow servicemembers received on their return from duty.

Reed said he doesn’t reflect much on his service. “I just live life day-to-day, and don’t really dwell on the past too much,” he said.

But in Washington, memories come rushing back. For the first time, he saw the names of those who never made it back from Vietnam etched into the iconic memorial.

It’s moments like those that bring Never Forgotten Honor Flight Board Member Dick Jarvis back year after year. “Every flight is brand new, just like the very first one,” he explained.

Jarvis began helping to organize Wisconsin trips like Monday’s almost a decade ago. He said it’s a special feeling to witness the impact the trip has on each group and individual. “The people are different, the veterans are different, all experiencing it in their own way,” he added.

There are fewer WWII and Korean veterans on flights these days – just five combined Monday. Jarvis said he believes the trips may be more powerful for the Vietnam veterans than their older peers, because now all of them are greeted as heroes.

The Never Forgotten Honor Flight is scheduled to return to the Central Wisconsin Airport at 9 p.m. Monday evening.

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