Veterans honored with Dream Flights at Austin Straubel International Airport
By Lauren Waters
ASHWAUBENON – A group of well-deserving veterans went on the trip of a lifetime on Thursday, June 27 at the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport.
Veterans took off from Jet Air on 30-minute flights around Green Bay in an open cockpit, 1943 Stearman biplane, once used to train aviators during World War II.
Green Bay was the third stop on an eight-city Wisconsin tour.
Darryl Fisher, founder, president, and pilot of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, said he gave the first Dream Flight on March 29, 2011.
“Four thousand flights later, here we are – dedicating our fourth airplane: the Spirit of Wisconsin,” said Fisher.
Fisher said the Spirit of Wisconsin began five years ago when a group of individuals in Stevens Point wanted to try to raise money to buy an airplane for Dream Flights.
“They wanted their own, so here it is,” he said. “And it is a really special day because we’re dedicating this airplane today.”
Although officially located in Nevada, Fisher said Wisconsin is near and dear to the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation because the first business to donate money to the foundation was a company in Milwaukee called Direct Supply.
“Honestly, given the circumstances, if they had not done that, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
Fisher said the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation is made up of 50-60 people, all of whom are volunteers, himself included.
“We have one purpose, and that is to say ‘thank you’ to our senior veterans for what they have done for us,” said Fisher. “We have the opportunities we have today because of your efforts and sacrifices and because of the things you and your families have done.”
Fisher said none of this would be possible without the sponsors displayed on the tail of the Spirit of Wisconsin, who each donated at least $5,000.
“The only way we get to do this is because of awesome people like Sport Clips and the VFW,” he said. “They donate so we can give this as a gift to you. Without them, we’d never get off the ground.”
Unity Hospice sponsored the lunch on the day of the event.
“Unity recognizes the significant impact and sacrifice so many of you have made in support of our freedom,” said Christi Schlueter, senior director of business development, quality and psychosocial services for Unity. “We are committed to providing better care for our nation’s heroes.”
Schlueter said through Unity’s Respecting Valor Program, the facility is able to offer customized care to veterans based on the era and branch of military service, past experiences and personal goals.
Mayor Eric Genrich spoke to the group before the flights began, sharing his appreciation of the veterans and to all who contributed to the event.
“It’s a true honor to be out here,” Genrich said. “Thank you to all who have served and sacrificed so much for all of us in this community and across this great nation.”