Sparta area veterans on second flight treated like royalty

Fourteen World War II veterans from the Sparta area let freedom ring as participants on the second Freedom Honor Flight.

Of the more than 500 applications on file from veterans in our area, a total of 100 veterans made the June 20 trip. Participants from Sparta, Tomah and Norwalk included Fred Steeves, Alvin Gamble, Laurel Schilhable, Olga Christianson John Johnson, Francis Vancil, Myron Schwarz, Homer Stark, Einar Olson, George Lundy, Russell Helgren, Vernel Dunnum, Lynn Nichols and Edward Muellenberg.

About 2.5 million WWII veterans are still living. In 2009, the national Honor Flight Network plans to transport 25,000 veterans to their memorials. Myron Schwarz, a passenger on the June 20 flight said, “I’ve seen many pictures of the memorial, but seeing the real thing was something else. We were treated like celebrities!”

The veterans were accompanied by volunteer guardians who paid their own way (about $500) and attended a training session. An all-volunteer medical team also accompanied the veterans.

Schwarz’s daughter Gail Raddatz said, “I had the honor of being a guardian for my father. Everywhere we went the WWII veterans were treated like royalty! Many people asked to have pictures taken with our veterans.”

Myron said, “Our return to La Crosse was tremendous, with fireworks, bands and flags a-waving; the works!”

A third flight is planned for October 10, 2009. You can support future flights and the many veterans who have not yet had a chance to make the journey by donating online or by remembering Freedom Honor Flight in your will or living trust. Local residents helped send these veterans through a successful “Vegas Night” fundraiser held at the Sparta American Legion this past April. Mark your calendars for next year’s Vegas Night fundraiser on April 3, 2010, at the Sparta American Legion.

With the help of individuals and businesses in our community, we can support the effort for many more veterans to be honored.