Local veterans aboard 24th Freedom Honor Flight

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Veterans Ron Goodman (right), of Prairie du Chien, and Terry Boyum, of Millville, gathered in front of Wisconsin’s pillar of the World War II Memorial. The folded flag represents another Wisconsinite who was supposed to accompany them on the Freedom Honor Flight, but passed away right before the trip.

As part of the once-in-a-lifetime trip, the veterans from the Freedom Honor Flight witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Prairie du Chien Vietnam-era veteran Ron Goodman (right) posed with a fellow flight honoree in front of the Lincoln Memorial. (Submitted photos)

By Correne Martin

La Crosse-based Freedom Honor Flight recently sent its 24th flight, carrying 95 veterans, to Washington D.C. to visit memorials standing in their honor.

On Sept. 14, one World War II, 18 Korean-era and 76 Vietnam-era veterans from western Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota and northern Iowa took the one-day trip to the nation’s capital. Included in the pack was Ron Goodman, of Prairie du Chien.

“I applied three and a half years ago but just got the call five to six weeks before the flight,” Goodman said. 

Any veteran is eligible for an honor flight, though the organization gives priority to WWII and Korean-era veterans first, and then the less healthy Vietnam-era servicemen and women. “I’m lucky I’m pretty healthy.”

Goodman is a Vietnam Army veteran, having served from 1964 to 1967 and worked in survey. 

“I went to school for communications in Georgia,” he said. “I got called on emergency orders, went to Korea, then Ft. Sheridan (Ill.).

The Freedom Honor Flight began for the region’s veterans at the La Crosse Regional Airport at Colgan Air Hangar 4. Goodman said he had to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m. that Saturday. 

“They gave us a bag with a few goodies in it when we got there. At orientation, they took our picture and explained the day to us,” he said. “We were supposed to bring a jacket, cap and our ID, and a camera if we wanted.”

Goodman got a nice new camera especially for this trip.

He did not take a family member or friend as a guardian, but was grouped together with another healthy veteran and an Honor Flight-assigned chaperone. Also on the flight were accompanying physicians and paramedics available to provide assistance where necessary.

The flight took off from La Crosse around 7:30 a.m. 

The first stop in D.C. was the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln monuments, followed by the WWII Memorial. Then, they visited Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the Changing of the Guard. Before leaving Reagan National Airport for home, the veterans had the chance to view the Air Force and Marines memorials, and the Pentagon as well.

“We never had to stop once. We were always escorted along our route,” Goodman shared. “We’d have a little time at each stop to walk around and observe and take pictures. People on the street would shake our hands.”

Goodman added that the weather was a little sticky that day, but there was no rain and it was mostly cloudy. He didn’t let anything damper his spirits though. 

“Anyone who wants to sign up for [the honor flight] and is eligible should do so. You get treated like a king,” he stated. “It was the trip of a lifetime.”

The flight left Washington D.C. at 9:35 p.m. (eastern time), arriving back in La Crosse at 10:55 p.m. (central standard time). Following arrival, a welcome home ceremony, with family, friends and others paying tribute, was held at the hangar. Patriotic music surrounded the group, including every one of the songs for the different branches of the military.

Over 11 years of operation, Freedom Honor Flight has flown just shy of 3,000 area veterans, typically in April and September each year. On the September flight, five of the Vietnam veterans were Purple Heart recipients and, among them, two were awarded two Purple Hearts and seven Bronze Stars.

Freedom Honor Flight is the La Crosse affiliate of the National Honor Flight Network, which began in 2005 in Dayton, Ohio. There are currently about 130 “hubs,” or cities, from which flights originate around the country, according to the honor flight organization. The national network provides them with technical and travel support and helps arrange activities in Washington D.C.

Also, Freedom Honor Flight receives no government funding and depends entirely on donations from the public. 

Donations are tax deductible. Donate securely online or mail a check to Freedom Honor Flight, P.O. Box 505, La Crosse, WI, 54602-0505.

In addition to Ron Goodman, another local veteran on the flight was Terry Boyum, of Millville (Wis.).

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