Linda Marty Schmitz gets choked up about Veterans Day. After all, her husband, father and brother all served in the military — her husband and brother in the Vietnam era, and her father in World War II.
“Veterans Day should not be a reason to have a sale,” she said on Sunday, Veterans Day. “It should be a time to stop and think about the people who have served our country and the people who are serving now — to pay tribute.”
Schmitz, 67, as president of Madison Jazz Society, hosted a “Big Band Salute to Veterans” Sunday featuring the All That Jazz Big Band at the Coliseum Bar. The 18-piece band played for free, with all proceeds going to the Badger Honor Flight program.
More than 130 people attended the concert, nearly a full house. Schmitz said the event raised $2,850 for the nonprofit organization, which brings WWII veterans to see the National WWII Memorial, which opened in Washington, D.C., in 2004, 59 years after the war ended.
“It’s sad that we only recognize veterans one day a year because they are putting their lives on the line every day of the year,” said Steve Bartlett, a spokesman for Badger Honor Flight, which pays for the tours through a number of fundraising events and activities.
Bartlett’s son and daughter-in-law threw him and his wife a surprise party, a combination 60th birthday bash for both of them and a 20th wedding anniversary celebration, on Saturday night. Instead of gifts, guests were asked to make donations to Badger Honor Flight, and they took in $1,400.
Flights cost $92,000, with the largest portion going toward chartering the planes. The organization also rents four buses, feeds veterans all meals and provides a police escort for the day.
“We don’t wait for traffic lights or stop signs,” Bartlett said. “Vets are treated like the dignitaries that they are.”
Honor Flight also flies terminally ill veterans from any war. It will eventually serve all veterans. The all-volunteer group is starting with WWII and then Korean War veterans because of their age, he said.
Milo Flaten, who at 19 was one of the first to land on the beach at Normandy on D-Day, took an Honor Flight before the group established a local presence. It was “just another airplane trip,” Flaten deadpanned.
Veterans attending Sunday’s event were encouraged to wear their old uniforms, if they still fit, or perhaps their American Legion or VFW uniforms.
Flaten, 87, who as a labor attorney and arbitrator still practices law, served in the Army reserves for 36 years, and wore the uniform he’s had for the past 20 years
“How do I feel today?” Flaten said. “Honored.”