Sparing time to honor vets

The Good Life

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For several years, Bob Warren has volunteered to help veterans see war memorials in Washington, D.C.
For several years, Bob Warren has volunteered to help veterans see war memorials in Washington, D.C.

Bob Warren is a senior project manager at Milwaukee-based engineering firm Graef and a Germantown village trustee, but he’s also a World War II history buff.

For several years, he’s been volunteering with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Inc., a Port Washington-based nonprofit that flies veterans to see war memorials and landmarks in Washington, D.C.

Stars and Stripes is one of 130 honor flight hubs in 44 states – and one of six in Wisconsin – that fly veterans to and from D.C. It transports about 600 veterans from southeast Wisconsin per year.

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Several times each year, Warren gets to General Mitchell International Airport at around 4 a.m. to prepare for veteran flights. He lines up wheel chairs, gets boarding passes and makes himself available to vets who want to talk or have questions about the flight. The veterans then board planes and take off for D.C., where they spend the entire day visiting memorials. When they are flown back that night, Warren is again waiting at the airport to greet them.

“I’m keeping people back behind ropes so they can march through crowds of people who are cheering and applauding,” he said. “It’s basically the homecoming they never had.”

Warren said the reason he volunteers his time to help the veterans is to honor his father, a World War II veteran who died in 2001 and never got a chance to see the war memorials in D.C. himself.

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“To me, it’s not really volunteering. To me, it’s an honor to serve these men and women who could have given their lives to defend the freedoms we enjoy every day,” he said. “I think all of us need to give back to our community, whatever that may be. There’s a limitless amount of opportunities and I think in this day and age, people are just a little too self-centered. They don’t understand the impact of helping others in need.”

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