John Boetcher of Altoona looks back at his days of 7 years of service during World War II.
Altoona, WI (WEAU) – Abraham Lincoln once said, "Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.”
Freedom is one the greatest honors of living in America, and it’s thanks to our veterans.
On Saturday, September 21st, 96 veterans will take their seats on the 12th Annual Freedom Honor Flight, an organization based in La Crosse that’s giving veterans the chance of a lifetime.
"I was in the National Guard originally with the Menomonie National Guard,” said John Boetcher, WWII Veteran of Altoona.
For 92-year old John Boetcher, World War II remains an album of memories. But 70 years later, he still remembers being called into service.
"They said for one year of vacation. They had painted a picture of duck hunting and fishing and I don't know what all but it didn't all pan out that way,” said Boetcher.
John decided after starting in infantry, he wanted to learn to fly and entered into bombardier school.
“As a bombardier I had to handle the guns in the nose when I was on the bomb run. I had the privilege and the honor to test the Norden bombsite. I had to carry a 45 revolver with me at all times, because I had to protect the bomb site with my life,” said Boetcher.
After training, he'd go on to complete about 25 bombing missions traveling to China, Burma, Puerto Rico and even New Delhi. Yet there's one traumatic memory that stands out among the rest.
"When it came time for the 4th mission, I came down with dysentery," said Boetcher.
The disease forced John to stay behind and his crew to choose another bombardier to complete their mission.
“As it turned out and until this day, I really don't know ... nobody seemed to know what happened to my crew, my original crew. They disappeared,” said Boetcher.
Thanks to Freedom Honor Flight, John will see the World War II memorial and find closure.
“I'm going to look on the board for the names and that and I'm sure they'll be there,” said Boetcher.
It's a day that the President of Freedom Honor Flight says has helped almost 1200 veterans since 2008. It flies veterans free of charge to Washington D.C. to see the war memorials.
"The typical the veteran that comes off this flight will look me right in the eye and say this was flat out the greatest day of my life,” said Bill Hoel, President of Freedom Honor Flight.
It's an experience that John and others will never forget like memories in an album.
"They will see the WWII memorial, the Vietnam wall, the Korean war memorial, the Lincoln memorial, Iwo Jema, the changing of the guard at Arlington national cemetery,” said Hoel.
After 7 years of service, it’s a moment that every veteran deserves.
“I had enough points. This is about 7 years for me so I'm going home,” said Boetcher.