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Area veteran takes part in Badger Honor Flight Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Jun. 15, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
Dorothy Bollant, Badger Honor Flight
Dorothy Bollant, right, a retired Air Force nurse, stands with her guardian, Eileen Statz, during a Badger Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., on May 13. (Photo courtesy of Badger Honor Flight)

Since its inception in 2010, the Badger Honor Flight has flown more than 2,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., on what is called the "trip of a lifetime."

Badger Honor Flight is a regional affiliate of the national Honor Flight Network.

The purpose of the network is to ensure that World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and terminally ill veterans from any war have the opportunity to see the memorials that have been erected in their honor in the nation's capital.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dorothy Bollant, 81, recently got her chance at said "trip of a lifetime."

The current resident of All Saints Neighborhood in Madison made her honor flight on May 13, along with 88 other veterans, 87 of whom were men.

Serving her country

Lieutenant Colonel Bollant served in the military as a nurse from 1962 to 1982.

"I always wanted to travel," she said, and travel she did.

Her time in the Air Force took her to places such as South Korea, France, and bases in the United States, along with a stint in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

Bollant was an aeromedical evacuation (AE) nurse on flights in and out of Vietnam.

Her flights would pick up wounded military members from places such as the Tan Son Nhut air base, near Saigon, and others near Cam Ranh Bay and Danang.

The flights would take the wounded to hospitals on U.S. bases in the Pacific or in the U.S. itself.

Bollant and the other nurses would provide care in the air, such as giving them food and medication or talking to them.

"They used to think we were flight attendants," she joked.

Bollant retired in 1982 after a 20-year career in the Air Force.

Learning about flight

When the honor flights started across the country in the mid-2000s, their original goal was to bring World War II vets to see the recently dedicated World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Over the past several years, as most of the surviving World War II veterans have gone on the flights, the network expanded its opportunities for Korean War-era and Vietnam War-era military members.

From its extensive coverage and promotion, Bollant heard about the Badger Honor Flight and applied to go on one more than two years ago.

She learned in January of this year she was slated to go on the May 13 flight, the 26th Badger Honor Flight.

While she was happy finally getting her chance to go, Bollant thought about "worrying about getting up at two in the morning."

Ready for takeoff

Two in the morning on May 13 arrived and Bollant and her guardian, Eileen Statz, made their way to the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison for 4:30 a.m. check-in time ahead of a 7 a.m. flight to Washington.

Each Honor Flight veteran is accompanied by a volunteer guardian who helps take care of any needs that arise.

After a nearly two-hour flight, the veterans arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to a crowd waiting to greet them.

"I remember getting off and everybody is right there shaking hands as you're walking down to catch your bus," Bollant said. "You're just ready to get off and get going."

The first stop was Arlington National Cemetery, but Bollant and a fellow female veteran on the flight -- Emma Engles, an Army veteran in Korea from Monroe -- went to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, near the cemetery.

"It's a beautiful building," Bollant said of the nearly two-decade old hemicycle memorial.

Other stops on the one-day tour of memorials were the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- which includes the Memorial Wall with nearly 60,000 names of those who died in the war -- Marine Corps Memorial, Korean War Memorial, World War II Memorial, and Air Force Memorial.

Bollant described the day as "constantly moving" from stop to stop, bus ride to bus ride.

Police escorts helped the buses smoothly get from one spot to the next.

Mail call

A jam-packed 10-hour day in the nation's capital ended with an evening flight back home.

That meant "mail call" time for the veterans, but this time, they didn't have to "write them to get them."

Bollant herself received more than 100 letters from friends and supporters, including students from St. Maria Goretti School and St. Ambrose Academy in Madison, through friend connections. She also got letters from All Saints Neighbors and her fellow members of the Madison Catholic Woman's Club.

"I didn't think I'd get any mail," Bollant said, but "it was about four pounds" of letters.

Welcome home

The day ended with what Bollant called the "most emotional" part "when you land [in Madison] and see the crowd out there."

More than 4,000 were on hand at the airport to welcome the veterans home.

She said there were tears in her eyes seeing people of all ages, sometimes up to five rows, lining the terminal.

"You get a little emotional," she said, saying as she walked into the terminal "you start shaking hands" with "tears coming down."

The greeters had handmade signs, including one that said, "Welcome home, Dorothy" from one of almost 20 people waiting for her personally.

About the Badger Honor Flight

Badger Honor Flight provides all amenities to the veterans, including all transportation, jacket, hat, shirt, and meals.

While each flight costs more than $95,000, everything is free to the veterans. The honor flight is supported by generous donations.

Badger Honor Flight offers every veteran invited to go on the trip the opportunity to select his or her own guardian. All guardians must meet the requirements including not being a spouse of said veteran, being between 18 and 69 years old, and being able to assist as needed.

Guardians are responsible for paying their $500 trip fee on their own, but there is a $100 discount if the guardian has served in the U.S. military.

All veterans interested in flying out of the Madison hub must submit an application to Badger Honor Flight.

Veterans are selected for flights on a first-come, first-served basis.

Exceptions are made for terminally ill veterans from any conflict.

Approximately 85 to 90 veterans go on each flight and there are four flights each year. Currently the waiting list is more than 750 veterans.

For more information on Badger Honor Flight, including how to apply, go to www.badgerhonorflight.org

 
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