|Bryan Davis and Harry Schilling|
The Honor Flight program flies World War II and Korean War veterans, as well as terminally ill veterans from other conflicts, to Washington, D.C., for a day of visiting their memorials.
“Harry” is Harry Schilling, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran who served four years as a Navy aviation mechanic. In spending the day as Schilling’s guardian, Davis learned that he enlisted when he was 18. Davis also discovered that Schilling’s two older brothers lost their lives in combat during World War II.
Davis said his greatest takeaway from the Sept. 17 trip was a deeper appreciation for sacrifice WWII and Korean War veterans made. “It was a time when the sovereignty of our country was being tested to the limit. When these heroes were called to duty, there was a very good chance that they would never return.”
Because Schilling was a Korean War veteran, Davis assumed that the Korean War Memorial would be of greatest interest, but that wasn’t the case.
“Harry wanted to spend most of his time at the World War II Memorial. It was evident that (the loss of his brothers) was heavy on his heart throughout the entire trip,” said Davis, whose grandfathers also served during WWII.
A powerful experience
Davis noted that, for him, the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery was most meaningful. “The last stop at Arlington Cemetery was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Davis said. “This ceremony was extremely powerful and the raw emotion on display from the veterans is something I’ll never forget.”
We Energies has supported the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight since its inception in 2008. In addition to the company sponsoring the cost of the Sept. 17 flight, employees provided handwritten letters, notes and cards thanking the veterans for their service. More than 150 were distributed – along with letters from the veterans’ own family members and friends – during “mail call” on the flight back to Milwaukee.
Davis said he was grateful to be selected as a guardian and to experience the day. “I never served, but I know a lot of people in our company have. This was a chance to serve our veterans and pay my respects.”
We Energies’ other guardian on the flight was Kevin Harrison, electric distribution controller – electric operations. “I hold great esteem for those who have served but especially those who served in World War II and Korea, given the comparisons between warfare then and warfare now,” he said. “It is amazing and humbling to consider what past veterans endured in service to our country.”