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“Very, very healing:” Photo display showcases powerful, emotional Honor Flight trips for veterans

MILWAUKEE -- It is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for veterans who sign up to take part in an Honor Flight. The powerful trips are being showcased at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center through a special art installation.

"We should care. It's important to thank your veterans for their service -- especially those who are the oldest," Paula Nelson with the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program.

"The Honor Flight is really, to me, is very, very healing for the family," Michael Orban, Vietnam veteran said.

The mission of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is to honor all veterans by flying WWII, Korean and Vietnam war veterans, as well as terminally ill veterans from other conflicts, to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials.  Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Inc. is part of the National Honor Flight Network.

The program was started in 2008 by Joe Dean and a merry band of volunteers, after Dean had seen a brief national news segment on the National Honor Flight Network.  He was inspired to bring this program to SE Wisconsin.  Within days, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight wheels were in motion.

"And I think this is an opportunity for the family -- maybe not to completely understand, and I don't think they ever will, but at least get a better idea of, 'OK, this is it,' and now we can start healing," Orban said.

Images that make up the special photo display at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center capture the experiences of the veterans who have taken the trip.

"It never was a dull moment. It was just over and over excitement. I'd recommend that anyone who gets the chance to go on an Honor Fight go," Earl Thomas, Korean War veteran said.

The slogan of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program is: "Every Day is a Bonus." It's not just a phrase, but a mantra for some. It came from Joe Demler, a World War II veteran.

Joe Demler

Joe Demler

"It's something that I believe in. I believe that every one of these veterans has a story to tell," Demler said.

Veterans eager to take part in an Honor Flight need to look no further than these photos to get a glimpse of what's in store for them on their trip.

"It's one day in your life, and when you have satisfied customers, you don't have any trouble selling it. We haven't had one complaint from anybody," Demler said.

CLICK HERE to learn much more about the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program, or to fill out an application for a trip.