Wisconsin Machinist, Vietnam Vet Makes His Inaugural Trip to DC War Memorials

IAM retiree and Vietnam War veteran Jerry Schiltz proudly shows off his IAM Retirement card during his visit to Washington, DC as part of the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. Schiltz was joined nearly 100 Vietnam and Korean War veterans from central Wisconsin.

Retired IAM member Jerry Schiltz, a Vietnam War veteran, had never been to Washington, DC to see the memorials honoring his service. Earlier this week, thanks to a Wisconsin non-profit called the Never Forgotten Honor Flight, Schiltz joined fellow veterans, and even a Green Bay Packer, on a day-long trip to the nation’s capital.

From left: Never Forgotten Honor Flight President and Co-Founder Mike Thompson, Local 1713 retiree and Vietnam War veteran Jerry Schiltz and IAM Retiree and Veteran Services Director Ed Manhart in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Schiltz, 69, was a millwright and a 23-year member of IAM Local 1713 while working at the Packaging Corp. of America in Tomahawk, WI. He’s proud that 40 of his 42 years in the workforce came in union shops, and that he served as an IAM Shop Steward for six years.

Schiltz was drafted into the Army in 1967 and signed on for an extra year so he could become a helicopter mechanic repairing Chinooks. He was accompanied on the Honor Flight by his brother, Daniel, a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran who was stationed in Thailand.

“I couldn’t believe the reception we got when we landed,” said Jerry Schiltz. “They were playing bagpipes, and people were stopping to clap and cheer as we went through the airport, including a police escort for the busses. It really made a lasting impression on all of us.”

Schiltz was greeted at the Lincoln Memorial by IAM Retirees and Veteran Services Director Edward Manhart.

“It is an honor to meet Jerry and be able to express the IAM’s gratitude and express thanks to him as a retired IAM member, and a Vietnam War veteran,” said Manhart. “It’s people like Jerry that have made our nation a great place to live, and our union a great organization to be a part of.”

The group from central Wisconsin—six Korean War veterans and 92 Vietnam veterans—spent over 10 hours touring Washington, DC and visiting the Lincoln, Korean, Vietnam and World War II memorials, including a visit to Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The return flight included a mail call—one of Schiltz’s most beloved memories from serving overseas—with letters from family, friends and local school children. Nearly 200 people gathered at the airport to welcome the veterans home.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” said Schiltz. “I encourage anyone who is eligible to get signed up and go. It was an amazing experience that I couldn’t have planned better myself.”

The Never Forgotten Honor Flight, which just completed its 24th mission, has brought over 2,000 veterans to Washington, DC. The entire trip, including meals, comes at no cost to veterans and is funded entirely through donations. Visit NeverForgottenHonorFlight.org to learn more.

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