APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) Fifty-one local Korean War veterans are about to meet their traveling mates.
They've been chosen for Old Glory Honor Flight's "Return to Korea" next May, a special mission that will once again change lives.
When its final mission was flown this fall, Old Glory Honor Flight had reached a milestone, a decade of flying veterans from Northeast Wisconsin to Washington D.C. and beyond.
That's 10 years, 53 missions, and more than 5,000 veterans receiving honor and thanks.
"It's amazing to us that we look back and it's been 10 years, seems like yesterday when we started this program and the enthusiasm is as great or greater than it was when we first started, so we are humbled at the fact that we've done this for 10 years," says Drew MacDonald, Old Glory Honor Flight president.
But before Old Glory can put a bow on 2019 and turn the calendar, there's one more order of business.
"Make sure everybody understand what the process looks like and what to expect in the coming months as we gear up for another epic trip across the ocean," says MacDonald.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, at Belmark in De Pere from 9 A.M. until noon, the 51 Korean War veterans selected for Old Glory's "Return to Korea" will gather to meet Honor Flight staff and fellow vets.
"And whether these vets know it or not, they're forming brand new friendships and relationships that will last them the rest of their lives," says MacDonald.
It was last month Honor Flight board members first called the veterans randomly chosen.
As a completely volunteer organization, MacDonald says these phone calls are beyond rewarding.
"You're 85-90 years old, you don't even dream of the idea of going back to where you served in 1950. There's a lot of emotion there, you figure just like Vietnam, these Korean War vets, much of what they became was formed in 1950-53 in Korea," says MacDonald.
And once again, photojournalist Bill Kumbalek and myself will have the honor of traveling with the veterans next May to document every step of their historic journey to Korea.