WWII Vets Return to Wisconsin After Seeing Their Memorial

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MILWAUKEE - "(It means) everything in the world," said a World War II veteran who got to experience the memorial created for him and all those who served our country in that important time in history.

One of the nation's largest honor flights went to Washington Sunday. The flights are put on by a local group, Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Inc, that is a hub of a national organization. 

Listeners to Newsradio 620 WTMJ helped raise the $250,000 to pay for the trip.

A 747 took more than 300 vets from Wisconsin to see the memorial.  Vets started arriving at Mitchell International just after 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning.  The flight was scheduled to leave in the 6 o'clock hour.  It took off a little late, but got off nonetheless.

Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Charlie Sykes says time is running out for many of these heroes to get that chance.

In their own words: 
Stories of Wisconsin's World War II veterans on the honor flight about their experiences in the war, and the chance to see the new monument in their honor

Audio: Veterans about their WWII experiences

Watch for more on this story from TODAY'S TMJ4 HD's Jay Olstad on Monday's "Live at 10"

Watch:
COMPLETE INTERVIEWS:
Veteran Walter Roob
Volunter Beth Carstens
Veteran Leon Whitteker
Veteran Lloyd Hoseid

Raw Video of the scene at Mitchell International Sunday morning as the flight was leaving

Listen:
Listen to Charlie Sykes Show on Monday 5/3, recapping the trip
Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Charlie Sykes talks to Wisconsin's Weekend Morning News after landing in D.C.
TODAY'S TMJ4 HD Reporter Jay Olstad on Wisconsin's Weekend Morning News
Charlie talks about the upcoming honor flight on Friday's Greenhouse on Newsradio 620 WTMJ

See:
JSOnline Photo Gallery

More:
Stars and Stripes Honor Flights' Website

"There's a real sense of urgency," says Sykes, "We've got 900 World War II veterans nationally that die every single day... these guys are in their late 80's and 90's."

Sunday, the veterans finally got to visit the nation's capital and pay visits to the memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial and other locations.

"Right now, it's pulling a few tears from my eyes," said Leon Whittaker.  "I never expected this.  I never thought it would do something like this to me."

Walter Roe could not forget those brothers in arms who died fighting for their country.

"It sort of tears you apart," Roe explained.  "You say 'Thank you, God' that you're still alive."

On the flight home participants received a 'mail call,' and were given letters of thank you from school kids and family members, and when they touched down at Mitchell Field late Sunday night, they enjoyed a welcome home celebration by hundreds of people waiting to greet them.

Honor Flights Staff Hope for Another Chance for More Veterans

Joe Dean is the president of the local Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program.

"It's a thank you that's so well deserved," said Dean to TODAY'S TMJ4 HD's Jay Olstad.

He says the 747 flight with more than 300 veterans was the largest they had ever done.

Still, the group has people on the waiting list who want to go see the World War II Memorial, so his group goes back to work.

"Our board of directors will meet on May 13th, and we'll set plans to make an announcement this summer, and if the stars line up, we'll hopefully go again this fall," said Dean.

Dean stressed that 12 veterans on the waiting list for Sunday's flight died before it happened.

Check out some of the pics from the trip...

Last stop at the Pentagon:
Last stop at the Pentagon

At the Iwo Jima Memorial:
At the Iwo Jima Memorial

The vets at the memorial:
The vets at the memorial

The ceremonial fire hose spray as the jet leaves Mitchell (as seen from inside the plane):
The ceremonial fire hose spray as the jet leaves Mitchell (as seen from inside the plane)

The vets at the memorial:
The vets at the memorial

The vets arrive in Washington D.C.:
The vets arrive in Washington D.C.

Students play marches for the vets as they arrive at the airport:
Students play music for the vets as they arrive at the airport

Some of the vets on the 747:
Some of the vets on the 747

Oooo, we've seen him run a radio control board, let's hope they don't let Charlie fly:
Oooo... let's hope they don't let him fly!

Charlie and Julia, she served as a nurse with her sister:
Charlie and Julia, she served as a nurse with her sister

Charlie and Tom Land, our boss:
Charlie and Tom Land, our boss: