WAUSAU (WAOW) – The co-founders of the Wausau-based Never Forgotten Honor Flight are our Jefferson Award winners for October.
Mike Thompson and James Campbell dreamed of creating a non-profit organization to send veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials built to honor them.
The dream became reality in 2009.
"This is my life. I eat drink and sleep the honor flight," Campbell said.
Added Thompson, "Aside from having getting married and having three wonderful children, it is the most important thing I have done in my life."
The organization has sent 2,644 veterans aboard 29 flights on the day-long tour of the war monuments – at no charge.
Each flight costs about $85,000.
The co-founders spend countless hours fundraising to make the flights possible. They credit community groups, schools, foundations and hundreds of volunteers for making it possible.
"We are very fortunate to live where we do. The support that we got is awe-inspiring," Campbell said. "Every one is like the first one.The passion is there. The excitement is there. The memorials really don’t change but the reaction of the individual veterans does."
Thompson said the trip for many veterans is a life-changer. "Many of the veterans are now sharing their stories. It is amazing we are able to bring those stories back to their families. It is a beautiful thing."
The next honor flight leaves Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee early Monday morning.