Veterans take inaugural ride in Spirit of Wisconsin

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Stevens Point, Wisc. (WAOW) — The Spirit of Wisconsin was brought home to Stevens Point for the first time on Wednesday.

The Spirit of Wisconsin is a 1943 Boeing Steerman, originally used to train Soldiers during World War II.

The Steerman’s former owner, Roland Garlinghouse, said the plane’s journey began with a freezing February in Minnesota. With an open cockpit, Garlinghouse said, “just simply staying alive would be a major accomplishment.”

When the war ended, Garlinghouse said, the plane was sold as military surplus for about $1,000. Years later, the price rose to a $125,000 target for the Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation.

David Lamken said the foundation brought a plane to Stevens Point in 2015, and the ride changed his father’s life. “When he got out he said I don’t need that wheelchair and he’s walked with a cane ever since…he came back to life after giving up,” said Lamken.

He said that’s when he knew he needed to get involved with Ageless Aviation. Later, the community went on to raise that $125,000 needed for Garlinghouse’s Steerman, later titled the Spirit of Wisconsin.

“I love it,” said Eddie Lamken, a WWII Veteran pilot and the father to David Lamken. “I’ll get a friend of mine to bring me up here just to look at it once in a while.”

On Wednesday, Eddie did more than look. He took the first inaugural flight in the Spirit of Wisconsin, with his wife’s name flying at the tail.

David paid to have his mother and father’s names printed on the tail of the plane, along with the years Eddie served in WWII.

“My mom passed away 15 years ago,” said David Lamken. “So he saw it and we had a good cry.”

Now, the Spirit of Wisconsin sits in Stevens Point, waiting to give more veterans a chance to fly.

Tom Lally

Tom Lally

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