The Sauk Prairie Heroes for Honor group is at it again.
The group, which raises money for Badger Honor Flight, is preparing to help fund a third flight of veterans to visit Washington D.C. Badger Honor Flight is a regional affiliate of the National Honor Flight, with a mission to ensure World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and terminally ill veterans from any war have the opportunity to see the memorials erected in their honor. Badger Honor Flight provides all amenities to the veterans, including all transportation, shirts, jackets, hats and meals.
To date, 236 Sauk Prairie area veterans have attended the daylong trip to Washington, D.C.
Fritz Wyttenbach, a member of the Heroes for Honor group, said when they first started their efforts in 2015 and 2017, the group just expected to raise a little money for Badger Honor Flight. But as momentum picked up for the cause, Heroes for Honor decided to try to raise $100,000 – the cost to fund one full trip. Before they knew it, the group had raised enough money over the course of two years to cover the cost of two flights – well before their anticipated deadline.
Prairie du Sac resident Bob Kelter brought the idea to Madison after sight-seeing about a decade ago in Washington, D.C.
“Through my job I had traveled on many occasions to Washington, D.C.,” Kelter said. “I was interested in seeing the newly constructed Vietnam Memorial. I went there and saw this large group of people wearing red T-shirts; mainly older men in wheelchairs.”
Kelter said he was curious and asked someone in the group who they were.
“I found out they were an honor flight from Michigan,” Kelter said. “He explained to me their mission and how impactful it is for the veterans.”
Kelter, who retired after 36 years with the Madison VA Hospital where he worked as a clinical social worker, knew this was a cause he was interested in bringing back home. He worked with veterans returning from Desert Storm and subsequent involvement in Iraq and saw first-hand the effects war had on soldiers. He helped establish Badger Honor Flight, which serves veterans in 11 Wisconsin counties, including Sauk.
Wyttenbach served as a guardian for his uncle on one of the first flights Sauk Prairie area veterans participated in; someone who watches over a vet during the trip. He was moved by the impact the trip had on local veterans. The impact was so great, he and the other members of Heroes for Honor decided the third time’s the charm and is now gearing up to raise money to help support a third flight.
“We just felt we weren’t quite done yet,” Wyttenbach said of the current campaign. “We still have some Sauk Prairie area vets who have yet to go. The biggest comment the vets have when they come back, is ‘this was the best day of my life.’ If you can do that for someone; that’s why we do it. Veterans and their families sacrificed an awful lot – the least we can do is provide them the opportunity to go to D.C.”
The hangar dance is reminiscent of an earlier era, where communities would use an airport’s hangar to hold a dance or other large gathering because it was the largest space available. Mueller Sports Medicine is providing the group with use of their hangar at the Sauk Prairie airport for the occasion, an 18-piece band will provide the musical entertainment and McFarlanes’ Raul LaBreche will serve as emcee for the event.
Veterans who have previously gone on an honor flight trip are encouraged to wear their T-shirts and are welcome to attend the event for free, as are other veterans and those flying on the May honor flight. Only guests of veterans will be charged.
“Veterans are very stoic,” Kelter said. “They hold things in all their lives and never talk. They are constantly wondering, ‘Why me? Why did I live? How does it make sense? Do I live up to it?’ So a trip like this is very cathartic for them.”