Janesville resident James Elgas caught a cold this week.
The illness isn’t going to keep him from taking a trip of a lifetime Saturday.
Elgas will be part of a group of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who will fly out of Madison early Saturday morning on the Badger Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
This will be the sixth and final Badger Honor Flight of the year. The program flies veterans of those three wars to Washington, D.C., free for one-day visits to see memorials built in their honor.
Elgas was drafted into the Army for the Vietnam War in 1968 while working at General Motors in Janesville. He served until 1970.
He was a sentry dog handler. German shepherds, shepherd mixes and Labradors were used in Vietnam to protect bases, detect ambushes and track fleeing enemy units.
Elgas has a simple explanation how he got into that part of the Army.
“They asked for volunteers,” he said, “and nobody volunteered. And then they pointed at me.”
Elgas has never been to the nation’s capital. He and the other members of the group will meet at Dane County Regional Airport at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. The flight is scheduled to take off at 6:30.
The Madison chapter of Badger Honor Flight takes nominations for veterans living in Columbia, Dane, Grant, Green, Jefferson, Lafayette, Richland, Rock, Sauk and part of Dodge counties.
The day is free for each veteran. Each flight costs about $110,000, and funding comes primarily from individuals, fraternal groups and corporations.
When the group arrives back in Madison at 8 p.m. Saturday, relatives and friends gather at the airport to welcome the veterans home.
Elgas’ son Peter, Peter’s wife and several other family members will be among those greeters.
When Elgas got back to Janesville from Vietnam, he returned to General Motors. He retired in 2003.
He spends his time woodworking and helping his two children, Peter and daughter Linda. She submitted the application to get her father onto the Mission 45 flight.
Linda will also accompany James for the day.
“He was so excited,” Peter Elgas said Wednesday night. “He called me like three times.”
Elgas and his wife, Betty, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in April.
Betty’s brothers—Dennis and Eugene Dabel—were honored with previous Badger Honor Flights.
It’s been an eventful year for James Elgas. Saturday promises to be a day he’ll never forget.