AirFest visitors recall veterans
If you stroll around Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport when the annual Southern Wisconsin AirFest takes wing, you’ll see all manner of uniforms, pins, caps and T-shirts either worn by active service members or commemorating military service to the United States.
And with AirFest 2008 coinciding with Memorial Day weekend, many of those out to see high-performance, low-level aerobatics remembered veteran and active service people important in their lives.
“There’s a lot of people I think about on Memorial Day, four in particular that I think about. Of course, I think about them every day of the year,” said William Nielsen of Janesville, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a General Motors retiree.
Three of the four soldiers who died in service were Nielsen’s classmates from Janesville High School’s Class of 1966: Dave Hellenbrand, Tim Agard and Elwood Roehl. The fourth was in his unit: Joe Kirkendall.
“Of course, I think about all the veterans overseas. I know what they’re going through. It’s hard to be away from home,” Nielsen said. “I’d just like to say, even if you don’t support the policy, support the troops who are over there.”
Memorial Day is the nation’s formal remembrance of those who died in military service to the United States, but it has become a day to remember veterans who survived their service, those serving now and simply people who hold special places in others’ thoughts.
A sampling of the memories shared Saturday at AirFest:
n Staff Sgt. Matthew Cartier, lead Marine Corps recruiter for Janesville: “I’ve been recruiting for two years, so every kid I put in the military comes to mind. I sent a mass text message to all of ’em, basically saying I want them to be safe, remember what they’re fighting for and I can’t wait for them to come home.”
n Joel Greving, a 17-year-old senior at Craig High School who was one of some 20 new Marine recruits: “There’s an ex-Marine in my family, my uncle Steve. He’s one of the reasons I joined.” Greving added that he enlisted in the Marines because they are “the best of the best. It’s the toughest branch to go into.”
His new-recruit comrades echoed his thoughts.
n George and Frank Taylor, brothers and Korean War veterans.
“It’s a good day to remember what it cost for our freedom and how can we ever repay the veterans who come back wounded. So many are suffering,” said George, a Janesville resident.
“I think of all the veterans because when you’re in the service, you’re giving up a helluva lot. The older you get, the more you appreciate it,” said Frank, who still carries a piece of shrapnel in his left leg.
n 1st Lt. Patrick Faudree of Appleton, a pilot of the Wisconsin National Guard KC-135 tanker airplane on display at AirFest: “My grandfather, Russ Faudree (a Navy veteran who survived World War II). I think what he did set the standard for what we do now. We look back and try to be as good as they were.
“It was a driving force in my decision to pursue what I’m doing now.”
n Ezekiel Hernandez, an 8-year-old Beloiter decked out in camouflage who wants to join the Army some day: “You remember all the people who are in the service.”
Hernandez is especially close to and proud of his uncle, Jamie Stewart of Beloit, who is serving with the Air Force in Japan.