Badger Honor Flight thanks Wisconsin veterans with an unforgettable visit to the nation’s capital.
“It’s just an incredible experience,” says Brian Ziegler, Chairman of the Board of Badger Honor Flight, which since 2010 has taken thousands of veterans from southwestern Wisconsin to the nation’s capital, among them many family members of Lands’ End employees.
Each flight leaves early on a Saturday morning from Madison and returns the same day. Veterans visit the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials. The day is far from completely solemn, however. Veterans get a celebratory send-off from cheering families and a welcome in Washington from active service members. A police motorcycle escort helps the tour bus whisk them to each destination on time.
Although top priority is given to the most senior applicants such as World War II veterans and terminally ill veterans of other conflicts, Badger Honor Flight’s goal is to give everyone who has served a chance to visit the capital, from combat veterans to those who remained stationed in the United States. “Everybody did their part. Everybody needs to be recognized. Everybody’s got a story to tell,” says Brian.
An army veteran himself, Brian has found serving the organization personally rewarding. “I’ve always been a history buff,” he says, adding that his role provides “an opportunity to meet these great men and women … to hear their experiences.”
Each flight costs a total of $95,000, but the trip is free of charge to the veterans. Volunteers, who pay their own fare, accompany the veterans and take care of any special needs. Badger Honor Flight is supported by donations and special fundraising events.
With four flights a year, Badger Honor Flight needs to outfit sometimes as many as 400 veterans, just one of Brian’s many responsibilities. “My job is to make sure everything goes seamlessly.”
One scorching summer afternoon a group of veterans turned up at a local baseball game dressed impeccably in their matching jackets and baseball caps. While none complained, Brian realized the veterans were uncomfortable in the 90-degree heat.
That’s when he turned to Lands’ End, selecting the mesh polo, embroidered with the Badger Honor Flight logo, as part of the group’s official “uniform.”
“I know they’re more comfortable,” Brian says, noting the cool performance of the polo’s all-cotton fabric. However, it wasn’t just the breathability that made a difference. “We wanted very high quality,” he adds, “not something you throw in a closet.”
Brian points out that the veterans still wear their mesh polos after the flight. “The vets are proud to wear them out and about.” He adds: “It’s been a great partnership.”
At Lands’ End Business, we’re grateful for the hard work and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans, and proud to play a small but important role in honoring them.
Photos courtesy Badger Honor Flight.