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Dad and son share trip of a lifetime

Published On: Jun 16 2013 11:56:26 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 16 2013 11:59:39 PM CDT

Badger Honor Flight

LODI, Wis. -

It was a picture perfect Father’s Day, one Eric Johnson chose to spend outside with a barn full of cows, some shorthorn showmen, and his family.

"Anyone that has an opportunity to become a grandparent will know that grandchildren are the greatest gift you could ever receive," Eric said.

Two of Eric’s grandsons were at the Lodi Fairgrounds, along with their great-grandfather and Eric's dad, Kenneth Johnson.

Ken brought a picture, an old one from right after World War II. It was a photo of him at a much younger age, younger certainly than his current age of 97. He was dressed in an Air Force uniform with a proud smile on his face.

"We had the draft then, and I've had two brothers, and I knew one of us was going to wind up in the service, and I thought it better be me," Ken explained.

That pushed Ken to enlist before World War II, where his B-17 was one of the few to survive and fly the same men back to America.

"I did a lot of flying, but not in combat," said Ken.

Decades later, the Johnsons took a different kind of flight together, one that honored Ken’s service to the country.

"It really was a once in a lifetime experience," Eric said.

Ken Johnson was the 1,000th passenger on the Badger Honor Flight last month. The dad and son boarded with hundreds of others for a day trip to Washington, D.C. The crew took them and a number of other World War II and Korean War veterans around the city, showing off the cemeteries and memorials.

For the Johnsons, the homecoming back at the Madison airport was the moment they’ll always remember.

"I'll just never forget it," Ken said. "That place was packed. I bet there was 2,000 people there to see us come home."

"They were given the hero treatment that they deserved and many of them didn't get when they returned from their service," Eric said.

Later this summer, Badger Honor Flight plans to take Ken up in a B-17, that same plane he flew for two years overseas on his 126 combat missions.

Whether that happens or not, Eric will always cherish this most recent trip with his dad.

"It's one of those once in a lifetime memories that we'll both keep forever," Eric said.

If you would like to donate or help out with the Badger Honor Flight, visit here.

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