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Honor flight gives Vietnam veteran unreal experience

Honor flight gives Vietnam veteran unreal experience Honor flight gives Vietnam veteran unreal experience

Mission 37, the 37th Never Forgotten Honor Flight from Wisconsin, that took place Sept. 2, 2019, was one that three area people will never forget. Joining the 107 other veterans on the flight to Washington, D.C., Gilman resident Dale Seng, and his daughter, Sheila Jones, Holcombe, experienced a once in a lifetime event.

Dale, who grew up in Ruby, served in Vietnam, from 1966-68, as a corporal in the Marine Corps infantry. During his time of service, he saw many things one would just as soon not see, including friends and comrades who never made it back home.

He even remembers once, when he jumped out of a helicopter into a “hot zone,” that it looked like ants were jumping on the ground below. He then realized it was shots from enemy fire, rippling the grass. Dale also tripped a land mine and lived to tell the tale, as well as many other harrowing experiences in enemy territory.

“I got two Purple Hearts from over there,” said Dale.

Stationed mostly from Da Nang to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Dale started aboard ships, was put on choppers and dropped into the hot spots.

“We’d stay in there until practically there were nothing left to us, then we’d come back out,” said Dale.

His unit was actually featured in the movie Rambo – the Second Battalion, Third Marines, Foxtrot.

After he returned home, Dale met his wife of 51 years, Josie, from Gilman. The couple married and had five children, 17 grandkids and 14 great-grandkids.

Dale said he didn’t really want to go on the honor flight, but someone from his PTSD group suggested he go and put his name in for the trip. Despite not wanting to go originally, Dale says he is very glad he went, “big time.”

“Every vet should take this trip,” said Josie.

For the first time, wives were also honored, so Josie got to accompany her husband to Wausau, and was given the royal treatment while Dale and Sheila flew to Washington, D.C.

“They treated us very well,” said Josie.

While Josie was sightseeing and staying at the Hilton Hotel in Wausau (rooms were provided by the hotel’s owner at no cost), Sheila and Dale headed out for a day of their own sightseeing.

Once their flight landed, hundreds and hundreds of people were on hand to greet the veterans, and little kids ran up to hug the strangers. Dale says a football field worth of people also lined the streets to cheer for the nation’s veterans, as a United States Police Department escort guided them through the Capital, stopping traffic to let the heroes pass.

“Our flight and the president, that’s the ones who get a police escort in Washington, D.C.,” said Dale.

The father/daughter saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the changing of the guards, the Pentagon, the White House and the Air Force Monument, to name a few places. They were also given a whole tote of stuff, including shirts and hats for the honorees and guardians.

“It’s unreal,” said Dale. “They couldn’t treat you any better.”

Sheila agreed, saying the volunteers even provided wheelchairs if the veterans needed them and anything they could want on the touring bus.

“It was just unbelievable,” said Sheila. “Every time we got off the bus, they put something else on our seat to snack on. You did not go hungry or thirsty.”

With only the one day in Washington, D.C., the flight fi- nally turned toward home, where another large crowd had gathered at the Mosinee airport to watch the plane land.

“The whole airport in Mosinee was full of people,” said Josie.

However, it didn’t quite come off without a hitch.

The flight was only 10 minutes away from landing, when severe weather hit, preventing the flight from coming down. In fact, the plane flew over the airport, but couldn’t land, the first time an honor flight had to divert somewhere else.

The flight went to Milwaukee, then to Minneapolis, Minn., and down to Iowa, before going back to St. Paul, Minn. Dale and Sheila finally officially made it back to the ground at 10 a.m. the next morning, too late for the crowds gathered to welcome them.

“So, everybody went home,” said Josie. “Kids were crying, adults were crying.”

Even without the return welcome, Dale says the whole experience was something to behold and that he still can’t get over all the people who took the time to greet them at the Washington, D.C., airport.

“I think everybody who walked through there, had tears in their eyes,” said Dale. “[It] was awful moving.”