Charlie Kelm knew he was getting some company Saturday afternoon, but he wasn’t expecting the crowd he encountered at his Washington Street home.
“All of a sudden, everyone was here,” Kelm said.
Friends, family gathered as representatives from a variety of organizations came to honor the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran. Kelm had been scheduled to go on an honor flight in April but it was canceled due to COVID -19. Honor Flight is a national program that flies veterans to Washington D.C. for a one day trip to see war memorials and to honor their service to the United States.
Kelm was honored by representative from the Beaver Dam Police and Fire Department and motorcyclists who were asked by the owner of 6th Gear Bar and restaurant did a drive by following a pinning ceremony by the local VFW.
Representatives from Badger Honor Flight were also on hand to give Kelm a bag of items he would have received if he had taken the trip. Badger Honor Flight Director of Fundraising Dewy Gillette said Kelm already had been visited by a caravan after the trip was canceled, but they wanted to do something more after Kelm’s health took a turn for the worse.
Kelm said he served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.
“I’m shocked,” Kelm said. “This is overwhelming.”
Kelm’s wife Susan Kelm kept plans for the celebration secret from her husband.
“It wasn’t easy,” Susan Kelm said. “There was a lot of text messages and a lot of fibbing going on.”
“This is great,” Kelm said. “In April they didn’t have the trip, and I was at the point where I couldn’t go anymore because of my health and they came to me.”
The idea for celebration for Kelm came from Marquardt Hospice, 1045 Hill St., Watertown, which provides care for Kelm.
Heidi Wallace, a medical social worker for Marquardt Hospice, said they were informed that honor flight was going to do the presentation and thought a pinning ceremony would be great as well. The event just grew from there.
“It was good timing to make a big celebration out of this,” Wallace said. “We like to go big for our vets.”
Kelm was able to spend the rest of the afternoon celebrating with his family.
Follow Terri Pederson on Twitter @tlp53916 or contact her at 920-356-6760.
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