Two Lafayette County veterans recently traveled to Washington D.C. for a one-day trip with Badger Honor Flight of Wisconsin to tour the memorials.
On May 3, Wes Seffrood and Ralph Kluesner, both of Darlington, traveled to the Dane County Airport in Madison to board a plane that left for Washington D.C. at 7 a.m.
By 10 a.m. the flight landed in Washington D.C. and the veterans were loaded into several buses to begin their tour of the city’s memorials and monuments, including the Marine Corps memorial, the WWII memorial, the Korean War memorial, the Vietnam memorial, the Air Force memorial and the Lincoln memorial. The tour also traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to witness the changing of the guard.
“It was just a great day altogether,” said Kluesner, “really great.”
Kluesner, who served in the Army from November of 1952 to November of 1954 during the Korean War, said that the greatest thing during the trip was how people treated the veterans.
“Everyone wanted to shake your hand and there were kids of all ages and everyone just treated us great,” said Kluesner. “It was almost too much and sometimes it was hard to keep tears from your eyes, but we did it.”
During the flight home there was a surprise in store for the veterans as well—a mail call—something every veteran looked forward to when they were away from home while serving their country.
“They came out and said there would be a mail call and I thought that wouldn’t include me,” said Seffrood, “but they just kept calling my name and I ended up with about 60 envelopes.”
Members of Seffrood’s church, the Wiota Lutheran Church, all got together and wrote letters to Seffrood for him to open on the trip home. “It was a very impressive thing,” he said.
Seffrood also served in the Army towards the end of the Korean War.
Then when the veterans returned to Wisconsin there was a reception committee of over 5,000 people waiting to welcome them home. According to Brian Ziegler, president of Badger Honor Flight, it was the largest crowd ever.
“It was just overwhelming,” said Kluesner. “We got on the escalator and there was a huge crowd, and all of our family and friends were there. It was amazing,” he said.
“When we got off the plane somebody was shouting ‘the plane is in, the plane is in!’ and then there were all these people…it was amazing and a very impressive sight,” said Seffrood. “You know, when servicemen came home from Vietnam they didn’t get that, because it wasn’t a popular war and here we had just gone on a trip and we got this great reception. Everyone wanted to shake your hand and tell you thanks. It was wonderful,” he added.
During the trip the veterans were also accompanied by guardians. Kluesner’s guardian was his son, Paul from the Barneveld area, who served in the Navy.
“He thought it would be a great thing for me and it really was,” said Kluesner. “It was just amazing, the amount of volunteers and the people donating stuff.”
Seffrood’s guardian was his son-in-law, Alan Abraham. “It was a long day, but we made it through from about 4 a.m. until around 9:15 p.m.,” said Seffrood. “We did about as much as we could absorb in just one day.”
Throughout the trip all amenities, including transportation, meals and lodging were provided to the participating veterans for free. “Everything is free to the veterans because of how much they have sacrificed for this great country already,” said the Badger Honor Flight website. “The only money veterans need is if they want to buy a souvenir for themselves.”
Each veteran also received a t-shirt, a jacket and a hat, which were provided by sponsors of the Honor Flight Network.