(OnFocus) Twenty-four area veterans experienced their own special welcome at Auburndale School District after a trip to Wisconsin Dells.
Veterans from Auburndale, Stratford, Milladore, and the Rudolph and Wisconsin Rapids areas participated Wednesday in the 3rd annual Veterans Duck Trip, which was fully funded by the student Community Leadership Class.
Students waited outside the school with handmade signs to greet the group upon its return while the Vesper and Richfield fire departments used their ladder trucks to display a large American flag. The Wood County Sheriff’s Department also reached out to the group that day and offered to give the buses a police escort.
“It was so much fun being a part of this,” said Larry Homann, a member of American Legion Post 485 from Rudolph and a veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1970-71. “It was amazing.”
The trip enjoyed cool, sunny weather and great scenery. Homann was grateful for the school, the Leadership Class, and all other organizations who helped make the trip a success.
Bill Voight of Milladore served in the Army National Guard from 1966-1973. “It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be with these fine gentlemen from across our area here. I want to thank the Auburndale School District for allowing us to go and a special thanks to the Leadership Class who put this together, and Joren Anderson of course and Mr. Cournoyer for their work with the kids.”
Voight said he graduated from Lincoln High School on a Thursday night and left for basic training the following Sunday. During the trip he enjoyed the camaraderie with other veterans and discussing their experiences in the military.
The Wisconsin Dells trip is planned by the Community Leadership Class, a selective group of high school student leaders. Members are responsible for reaching out to veterans, fundraising for the trip through a corn maze, cotton candy and root beer sales, and arranging the details of the trip.
The concept first came about after the class was shown a video about the boat operators who were called to help the U.S. Coast Guard evacuate Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was the largest water evacuation in American history.
A similar situation occurs during flooding situations in Wisconsin. “When they have flooding, the Ducks go out,” said Mark Cournoyer, co-teacher of the Community Leadership Class and agriscience instructor. “We interviewed the owner of Wisconsin Ducks and he invited us to come on down. We said we should take another group along and invited our veterans who come for our Veterans Day program, and that was our first class.”
The veterans began the day with coffee and doughnuts at the school with a cheerful send-off by Auburndale Elementary students who gave a surprise rendition of the National Anthem. From there the bus stopped at Kwik Trip in Necedah for a quick breakfast sandwich, Wisconsin Dells for a tour, including on a 1946 DUKW, and then onto Pizza Ranch before returning to the school in the afternoon.
As knowledge of the trip grows through word-of-mouth, the program shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
“It’s all for them, for the service and sacrifice they gave our country to allow our community and state to be the way they are,” Cournoyer said.
The public is welcome to attend a Veterans Day program on Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. at the elementary school, and the high school at 10:10 a.m.
Trip photos provided by Mark Cournoyer