May 19, 201411:12 AMOpen Mic
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How you can honor Wisconsin’s veterans this Memorial Day — and year-round
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After more than six decades, finally, a hero’s welcome.
The Dane County Airport was the scene of a jubilant homecoming for 86 World War II and 17 Korean War veterans on Saturday night.
My husband and I arrived at 9 p.m., not knowing what to expect. The veterans, many who are in their 90s, had arrived at the airport at 4:30 a.m. to board a flight to Washington, D.C. They spent the day touring the World War II, Korean War, and several other memorials established to honor their courage and sacrifice. They were due back at 9:15 p.m.
Several hundred well-wishers lined a cordoned-off walkway running the entire length of the ticket counters, waving flags, holding homemade signs, anxiously awaiting their first glimpse of the heroes. Many were heroes themselves, representing all branches of the U.S. military, including the man standing next to me, who served as a Green Beret in Vietnam.
While we waited, entertaining the crowd were a band, Bucky Badger, and “Rosie the Riveter,” who danced with some of the guys down the center aisle. Her hair wrapped in a red-polka-dotted bandana, Rosie is symbolic of the millions of women who worked in the factories during World War II. Volunteers sat at tables offering cookies and soft drinks.
A sign held by a volunteer told us the plane had touched down. Anticipation mounted. About 15 minutes later, a huge rush of cheers went through the crowd, and hundreds of heads craned to see the first of the veterans coming down the escalator. Wearing bright red shirts and hats, one by one they made their way down the aisle. Many were pushed in wheelchairs by loved ones or by volunteers. Others were able to walk.