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WWII veterans honored with Dream Flight in Baraboo

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 12:39 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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BARABOO, Wis. (WMTV) - A national organization stopped in southern Wisconsin to honor local WWII veterans with a quick trip to the sky.

A fully restored Boeing-Stearman biplane landed at the Baraboo-Dells Flight Center Thursday morning.

A pilot with Dream Flights took four local veterans for a free flight, one at a time, to honor their service to our country.

A fully restored Boeing Stearman biplane with "Dream Flights" lands at the Baraboo-Dells Flight...
A fully restored Boeing Stearman biplane with "Dream Flights" lands at the Baraboo-Dells Flight Center.(Erin Sullivan WMTV)

That included Baraboo resident Russell Hasenbalg, a 94-year-old Army Veteran who served in Germany and Korea as a Staff Sergeant.

“It’s kind of nice, because I haven’t flown in probably 9-10 years. So, get to sit in the seat again,” told Hasenbalg.

Hasenbalg built two complete airplanes himself, the first of which was an open cockpit as well, all of which he flew at the Baraboo-Dells Flight Center.

Hasenbalg said he also preformed stunts like, “loops, rolls, hammerheads, anything that I could do that I wasn’t supposed to be doing.”

He said it was great to get up in the air again, “but I don’t expect any honors. There was a lot of people under worse circumstances, a lot of them didn’t come home.”

A group of veterans and their family members stand in front of a fully restored Boeing Stearman...
A group of veterans and their family members stand in front of a fully restored Boeing Stearman biplane prior to Dream Flights in Baraboo.(Erin Sullivan WMTV)

Norman Vlcek, a Nebraska native who now lives in Baraboo, joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 at just 18-years-old and served in the Philippines as a Radar Operator for 2.5 years.

The now 96-year-old said he’d never been in a plane like the one he rode in on his Dream Flight.

“That was great. I enjoyed my ride. I saw Wisconsin Dells, I saw the Crane Foundation, it was real interesting. I noted that we went 2,100 feet in the air at an air speed of about 105 miles per hour, that was interesting,” said Vlcek.

Norman Vlcek, 96-year-old Navy Veteran, takes his Dream Flight in Baraboo.
Norman Vlcek, 96-year-old Navy Veteran, takes his Dream Flight in Baraboo.(Erin Sullivan WMTV)

Army Veteran John Geoghegan and Navy Veteran Al Paschen also took Dream Flights Thursday morning.

No matter which branch they served in, the gentlemen all bonded over the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.

These flights were a part of Operation September Freedom, a mission to take 1,000 WWII veterans on a Dream Flight over the next two months in 300+ different cities.

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