Middle schooler, a contest winner, honors WWII vet at Honor Flight
Jodi Becker with Jay Sorgi
MILWAUKEE - This weekend's Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C. will feature a first.
Not only will World War II veterans be seeing their memorial, but two local students will also go on the trip in an effort to teach the value of freedom to the next generation.
Two winning students earned their way onto the Honor Flight.
They wrote essays about local WWII veterans buried at Arlington.
"That was really hard," said middle school winner Abby Cibulka, a 7th grader at Grafton's John Long Middle School.
"Arlington National Cemetery doesn't give out information about who's buried there."
She got either creative or lucky when her mom mentioned the Honor Flight contest to a family friend.
"The said that their dad was buried there, and he was a World War II veteran."
Abby told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jodi Becker that it is still tough to believe.
"I was pretty shocked. It was like a miracle, almost."
So the research and interviews began.
With the help of her National Honor Society advisor Lynn Slowiak, Abby got to know her veteran.
"His name is William James LeMaster. He was in the Navy. He was stationed on a battleship," Abby told Jodi.
"We did get to know him. That was probably the biggest eye-opener, that those stories are here, close to home," said Slowiak.
Abby says LeMaster's family was so impressed with the contest and Abby's eulogy that his son, daughter and widow are flying to Arlington to be there when Abby reads the speech at his grave site this weekend.
"I expect that there's going to be a lot of crying," predicted Abby.
One of the goals of Honor Flight is to teach future generations to appreciate the price of freedom.
Slowiak says she thinks Abby gets it now.
"It ends up connecting generations to each other. Now, Abby has talked to his son, but also through his son, has heard things from the veteran's wife as well," explained Slowiak.
"I'm just real proud to honor them, the thank you that he would never get," said Abby.
People can come to the Honor Flight homecoming at Mitchell International on Saturday night.
The plane carrying World War II veterans back from their monument will arrive back at approximately 8:00 p.m.