Wisconsin veterans taking special trip to Pearl Harbor

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APPLETON -- A group of Wisconsin veterans will soon be taking a special trip back to Hawaii. The vets all survived the attack on Pearl Harbor over 70 years ago, and the trip is a special off-shoot of the "Old Glory Honor Flight" out of Appleton.

81-year-old Firman Balza was an 18-year-old sailor serving on the U.S.S. Maryland the day it was attacked by Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor.

"Anybody with any sense at all sure wouldn't have been at Pearl Harbor at that particular day, but when you're in the service, you're on a ship and you're going in harm's way," Balza said.

Balza recalled the bloody battle, and said it's the kind of thing remembered in history books.

Soon, Balza will be remembering what happened in Hawaii with 20 other Pearl Harbor survivors on the "Old Glory Honor Flight - Return to Pearl."

Drew MacDonald is the president of "Old Glory Honor Flights." Typically, the group takes day trips with veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the World War II Memorial.

"It's never too late to say thank you, and this is one effort of saying thank you for what you did," MacDonald said.

Balza said he never expected any fanfare for his service.

"I never went around telling people I was at Pearl Harbor, I was in the war. You can't toot your own horn, you know," Balza said.

Balza said this will be his fourth trip to Pearl Harbor. He says this time, going back with other vets to a place where his life and the course of history changed forever, will take on new meaning. 

The vets begin their journey on Thursday, June 14th in Appleton. From there, they travel to Milwaukee and then Chicago, where they will fly to Hawaii.

The whole trip is paid for by community donations.

CLICK HERE for more information on "Old Glory Honor Flights" and the Pearl Harbor trip.

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