(Saturday, July 9, 2011) Members of the Pewaukee Yacht Club (Pewaukee, Wis.), including event organizer David Buckley, hosted the Honoring Our Veterans event. The purpose of this special event was to honor our U.S. Military Veterans, educate our young sailors about the sacrifices made for freedom and to support the Honor Flight Program.
The idea to host such an event spawned from a discussion about the Stars and Stripes Honor Flights run out of Milwaukee between Tom and Ruth O’Malley and Peter Harken. This program invites World War II Veterans an opportunity to fly, all expenses paid to Washington, D.C. to visit their Memorial and return home to a hero’s welcome.
“The thought was that we should have a special celebration at the Pewaukee Yacht Club to honor the individual and family members that belong to or have belonged to our yacht club and have served in the armed forces,” said David. “Rather than limit it to only World War II Vets, we opened it up to include all military servicemen and women that have served, or are serving our country. We also invited some Veterans from the neighboring lakes to join in.”
A total of 163 Veterans were identified through other Vets and family members, however some had passed away. Invitations were mailed and 79 Vets attended the event. Nearly all of the Veterans are or were yacht club members and sailors. Buddy Melges served in the Korean War (Navy) and was in attendance and honored along with other Korean War Vets Olaf (Navy) and Peter (Army) Harken. The Harken’s father was a Prisoner of War in Japan during WWII.
The event started with a high school drumline accompanied by a military academy color guard flag raising and the Pledge of Allegiance. A quartet led the National Anthem, which was followed by a dedication to the Pewaukee Yacht Club in Iraq and it concluded with a reading of all 163 Veterans being honored. A bell was rung for each of the deceased.
Ten local restaurants donated all of the food for the free event that served 350 in attendance. The event featured a live auction and USO (United Service Organizations) show featuring the likes of Bob Hope, the Andrews Sisters, Lee Greenwood, Marilyn Monroe and Kate Smith, who were all performed by Pewaukee Yacht Club members. The USO show ended with a dance routine by a very spry 87-year-old WWII Lt. Colonel Henry Ratenski and his partner Robyn Pearce. The USO show was followed by a 21 gun salute and Taps bugled by Wendy Olson in period dress. At the completion of Taps, vintage WWII airplanes performed a fly-over.
“The amazing thing is that this whole event happened just 58 days from the first planning meeting on May 12 with five individuals that had no prior event planning experience, just a good cause in mind,” said David. “We wish to thank all of our many volunteers, sponsors and donors that made this event happen. This five hour event raised well over $11,000 towards future Stars and Stripes Honor Flights.”
_ Photo: Harken_
“I can tell you that just to see those faces of the guys and gals we were honoring during that event and to have them tell me how much that day meant to them was one of the most satisfying days I can remember,” said David. “It is our sincere hope that this will become the first of hundreds of these events to be hosted by yacht clubs across the nation to honor their veterans.”