by Dave Boehler
for The Beacon
Thinking about taking a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight?
Do it, says Plymouth resident Bob Oswald.
“It was the best thing ever,” he said. “I would highly recommend it for anybody that was in the service that hasn’t done it yet.”
Someone mentioned the trip to Oswald, so he pursued it and was on a waiting list for two years before the pandemic hit. But on May 21, Oswald finally went to Washington D.C. to see his good friend’s name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Honor Flight Network has escorted nearly 250,000 World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans for free. There are approximately 140 network hubs across the country, including one in MIlwaukee and Green Bay.
Oswald, who was born in Milwaukee, was in the Marines from 1969-71. His duty was stateside, but Brown Deer High School and motorcycle-riding pal Dick Proveaux served in the war for about a week until the group he was in got ambushed.
“It was important to me to find him,” Oswald said. “I never knew exactly what happened.”
Oswald and his son, Justin, were among the plane full of people that flew from Milwaukee to Baltimore. Busses got them to the many memorials, including the Arlington National Cemetery.
“That was amazing, to see that, and the changing of the guard, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers,” Oswald said.
The Vietnam wall is what he came for, however, and he found his friend’s name thanks to the help of volunteers.
“This was something that I’ve had on my mind for a long time that I wanted to see,” Oswald said. “It was amazing. It was unbelievable. The memories, and the closure because I did get to see his name on that wall.”
After all these years, Oswald says it felt like he lost a family member but could not attend their funeral. He just had to see Proveaux’s name.
“It’s hard to explain,” Oswald said. “You almost have to be there to see all this.”
On the flight home, a mail call was held that was very emotional, according to Oswald.
So he waited until he got home to open the 25 or so letters from various schools and organizations throughout the area. One of them was from his grandson.
“He drew a picture of an American Flag and thanked me for my service,” Oswald said.
Once the plane landed in Milwaukee, the heroes were greeted by a bagpipe band at the gate. There was also a marching band and close to 225 people welcoming them home.
“That was very emotional,” Oswald said. “It brought tears to your eyes to see all these people. I wish you could see the video.”
“I mention it to service people that didn’t go and I tell them it is something you have to see.”