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Three local vets board May Honor Flight

Price County Review - 7/5/2018

This week millions of Americans celebrated the independence of our nation, the United States of America, born in 1776 from the blood and courage of patriots who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Each year since 2010, the Never Forgotten Honor Flight delivers hundreds of northern Wisconsin veterans to Washington, D.C. - celebrating today's patriots who pledged their own lives in defense of our now 242-year-old America.

One of those patriots, Phillips resident Doug Rasmussen, served in the United States Army from 1971 to 1973 during the final few years of the Vietnam War era.

Rasmussen grew up on the very property he now inhabits in the Phillips area, just down the road from the two-room Arbutus Hill school (now the Elk Town Hall) he attended as a young lad. Eventually, Rasmussen transferred to the new Phillips Elementary School in town on his way to graduating from Phillips High.

The draft was for the Vietnam War at the time, and Rasmussen, with a lottery number of just 035, decided to enlist, affording him a choice as to what direction he would go.

"My buddy and I said, 'You know, we should join the Army together,'" recalled Rasmussen, who himself wanted to jump out of airplanes as a paratrooper.

He entered the service in June of '71 and headed off to boot camp at Missouri'sFort Leonard Wood, where Rasmussen said most Midwestern enlistees cut their teeth. The exception to the rule was his buddy, whom the Fates had shipped off somewhere else. From there, Rasmussen was sent southward to Fort Sill in Oklahoma to train in the use of artillery - namely, howitzers, which shot massive 105 mm ammunition.

Rasmussen finally started Airborne School at Georgia'sFort Benning, and before it was over he had racked up about 125 parachute jumps - one of which resulted in a particularly derailing injury.

"I was going to go to the Ranger School, and I broke my leg, so that curtailed that," Rasmussen said.

After being laid up for a couple of months, Rasmussen found himself at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he became part of the elite 82nd Airborne Division. There, he was among the first class of soldiers to train with steerable parachutes, readying themselves for a special mission that, ultimately, never went down.

"We were sitting out there with all of our gear packed, ready to fly out - we sat out there for half a day, probably - and then they came and said, 'Pack your stuff, boys; we're going back," Rasmussen said.

He was discharged from the service in October 1973 and returned home to the Phillips area for a few months before enrolling in school in Wausau. He found work there fixing boats and snowmobiles, which set the stage for his final return home to Phillips at the tail end of the '70s. There he ran Rasmussen Service Center for just shy of four decades, selling it only two years ago. Now Rasmussen considers himself semi-retired, as he still does some work for folks here and there.

Rasmussen has been a part of the American Legion over those four decades and, about 12 years ago, decided to take part in the creation of an AMVETS post, which he said sprang from a conversation with a Pearl Harbor survivor.

"We had kind of a meeting one night, and he said, 'You know, there's no place for the guys to go that were not in during wartime,'" Rasmussen said. "They want to join a group, they can't. They can't join the VFW, they can't join the Legion."

Today, Rasmussen is the Commander for AMVETS Post 50 of Phillips - open to anyone who has honorably served in the U.S. military, including the Reserve and the Guard -and the AMVETS are an active fixture in the community, doling out seemingly countless donations each year to an array of local causes. This year also marked the 11th year of the AMVETS-sponsored "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs" youth fishing day, when fourth-graders are supplied with poles (for keeps) and take part in a day of angling. Rasmussen counted this project as one of Post 50's greatest.

Plus, boosted by a particularly prolific Auxiliary, AMVETS members have, by Rasmussen's estimation, raised well over $10,000 for the Honor Flight - an experience he himself participated in May 21 on the Never Forgotten Honor Flight's 32nd mission.

"I could see what all our fundraising was for," said Rasmussen, speaking emphatically about the great feat of organization that is the Honor Flight, from shipping 100 veterans off to Washington, to navigating the streets of D.C., visiting the various memorials, and returning the vets home - all in the span of a single day.

Since its first mission on April 27, 2010, the Never Forgotten Honor Flight Hub has flown 2,935 veterans to D.C., including 1,028 WWII vets, 1,141 Korean-era vets, and 766 Vietnam vets.

The Never Forgotten Honor Flight serves 13 counties in northern Wisconsin, including Price, Barron, Clark, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Rusk, Taylor, Vilas, and Wood Counties.

The next Never Forgotten Honor Flight is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 17.

For more information call 715-573-8519 or visit www.neverforgottenhonorflight.com.


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