Civil Air Patrol

Badger Honor Flight Veterans welcomed home by Madison squadron

Photo by 2nd Lt. Dale Mitchell – Cadet Staff Sergeant Caleb Rudolph shakes the hand of a veteran and presents him with a tote for his mementos of the trip.

Madison, Wis. – Ten members of the Civil Air Patrol’s 153rd Composite Squadron were privileged to assist eighty WWII vets as they returned home on the final Badger Honor Flight of 2012.

The WWII vets left Dane County Regional Airport at 4:30 a.m. recently for a full day of activities in Washington, D.C.   They returned at 9:30 p.m. to receive a hero’s welcome from a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Members of Madison’s squadron were on hand along with active military, reservists, and ROTC cadets. They helped escort the veterans down the escalators and elevators to the warm reception below.  It was an honor to be present to meet these men and women, and to thank them for their service.

The Honor Flight Network grew out of one man’s determination, Earl Morse, to help WWII veterans see the WWII memorial which was dedicated in May 2004.  Morse, a retired Air Force Captain working as a physician’s assistant, noticed that many of his patients were WWII veterans without the means to ever make the trip to see the WWII memorial.

In December 2004, Morse offered to pilot a small plane and take one of his patients to see the Memorial. The man gratefully accepted.  Members of his flying club soon stepped up to help and the Honor Flight Network grew from there.  Two main stipulations are that veterans pay nothing for the trip and they be escorted around Washington D.C. for the entire day.

Many of the WWII vets, a few who wore their WWII uniforms, were surprised but visibly moved by the hundreds of family, friends and grateful well wishers who turned out to welcome them home at the end of their long day.

Dane County Regional Airport became Main Street America with all the excitement of a 4th of July parade.  Family and friends held up banners and posters with pictures and names of the honored veterans.

Ladies Must Swing, an all-female band, played Big Band favorites and military tunes.  The Ho Chunk Nation, a major sponsor of the event, provided a drumming circle to greet the veterans as they made their entrance into the airport lobby.   The VFW Post 7591 Black Knights and Madison Dayettes were both honor and color guards for the event.  Bucky Badger posed for pictures and challenged onlookers to beat him in pushups. Other volunteers handed out cookies and drinks.

The Freedom Honor Flight out of La Crosse and the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight serving the Milwaukee area were the first two Wisconsin Honor Flight hubs.   Organized in 2009, Badger Honor Flight serves the Madison area and has been making flights since April 2010.

This was the fourth flight of 2012, and the final Badger Honor Flight for WWII veterans.  Next year Badger Honor Flight will begin accepting applications from Korean War veterans.

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