[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APPLETON — Marilyn Binder works as a nurse at Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, so it’s clear she has compassion for U.S. military veterans. But she felt an affinity for these men and women long before she started her job there this past summer.
Since 2010, Binder has served as a guardian ad litem on 19 Northeast Wisconsin Old Glory Honor Flights. These flights transport local World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials built in their honor.
Being a nurse is a career that came to Binder later in life. She was 49 when she graduated from nursing school but it was something she had wanted to do for a long time.
Her late husband, Francis, had been a diabetic since age 5, so helping him deal with that through the years got her interested in medicine. She enrolled in nursing school at 36 but didn’t make it past the first day because she felt so sick. It turned out she was expecting their third child.
“God didn’t want me to go to nursing school at that point,” said Binder with a laugh. Once she did make it to Fox Valley Technical College, she sailed right through her courses and then began a career at St. Elizabeth Hospital that lasted 17 years. “I retired from there last year to take care of my great-grandson who has heart problems,” said Binder.
She started her job at the veterans home in July and works there 40 hours every two weeks. “It’s a nursing home and there are 720 residents up there. They are veterans or spouses of veterans. I find it very fulfilling.”
The opportunity for Binder to volunteer with the Old Glory Honor Flight came about shortly after its maiden flight in October 2009 thanks to a friend, Diane MacDonald, who runs the gift store at St. Elizabeth Hospital.
“One day … she said, ‘You know what, I would like you to come on an Honor Flight with us.’ I had no clue what it was,” said Binder. “She explained it all to me and I was just hooked. I couldn’t say no.”
Even though Binder is one of the medical personnel on the flights, like the other volunteer guardians she pays a fee to cover the cost of her trip each time. She goes on four or five Old Glory Honor Flights every year. “I was also privileged to go to Pearl Harbor with them,” noted Binder.
Working at the veterans home gives Binder the perfect opportunity to recruit veterans to take part in upcoming honor flights. All vets who were on active duty during World War II (12/7/41 to 12/31/46) or the Korean War (6/25/50 to 1/31/55) or served during the Vietnam War and are terminally ill are eligible to take one of these flights. But not all of them are willing to go.
“As I go through the buildings you can tell who would be eligible to go on an Honor Flight,” said Binder. “One gentleman, he’s 93 and he said no at first. I explained to him that it was a way for us to say thank you for his service to our country. The trip for him would be free, he could take a family member as a guardian if he chose to do it. His daughter told me, ‘I don’t know if he’ll get on a plane.’ She explained to me that he was a fighter pilot in the war and his plane got shot down. He has since submitted an application but we don’t know if he’ll go.”
The trips to Washington, D.C., can be quite emotional for both the vets and the guardians. “The Korean vets are much more emotional,” noted Binder. She recalled a recent trip where she was assigned as a guardian to a Korean War vet. “The minute we walked into the arena where the Korean memorial was he started crying. I took a picture of him where it said, ‘Freedom is Not Free.’ He said, ‘I’ve never talked about this.’”
Binder plans to continue her work with the Old Glory Honor Flight as long as she can. “I was extremely close to my dad, he’s gone of course, but it’s a way of me taking care of him through them. It’s my way of saying thank you to them, even if you never talk to most of them. Every one of them when you get them in there, they’re so grateful. You can see that in the obituary column, they mention Old Glory Honor Flight and they were only with us for 24 hours. How awesome is that.”
If anyone knows a vet who would be eligible to take one of these flights, Binder encourages them to sign up at OldGloryHonorFlight.org.
“We’ll get you on a waiting list and away we’ll go. It’s the most awesome, awesome day,” she said. “Every single time you do it, you’re going to the same places, but of the 18 times I’ve been to Washington, D.C., you see it differently through the eyes of each one of the men I’ve had.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Marilyn Binder
Parish: St. Pius X, Appleton
Favorite saint: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Words to live by: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift his countenance upon you and be gracious to you.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]