Brillion residents serve as guardians on honor flight

June 29, 2017

By David Nordby The Brillion News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – John Giese and Heidi Peronto, two Brillion residents, recently attended the Old Glory Honor Flight in Washington, D.C.

The event, which is always special, had a new twist for its fortieth flight. Younger veterans, like Giese and Peronto, served as ‘guardians’ for older veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“They wanted to have it be a generations mission,” Giese said. “It was an emotional day … You know the history.”

The day in the nation’s capital is a whirlwind. In addition to being the first honor flight for both Giese and Peronto, veterans visited the World War II, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, Disabled Veterans, Navy and Air Force memorials.

“It was a very emotional experience because he was very emotional throughout the thing,” Peronto said of her veteran, Jerry. Jerry is an 82-year old Korean War veteran who was also on his first honor flight. “It was all for my veteran and not for me.”

Peronto said that Jerry was overwhelmed by the monuments, and the day overall. The emotions were flowing, even if Jerry didn’t speak a lot while visiting the monuments.

“Just seeing him going through the process brought me to tears,” Peronto said.

Peronto served in Iraq from 2006-2007 and again in 2009-2010. Like Giese, she called the honor flight a “humbling experience.” Peronto has lived in Brillion for four years and is from Appleton.

Giese was born in Brillion and joined the service between his junior and senior year of high school. He left for infantry school at Fort Benning a week after graduation.

In October 1990, he found out he was going to what was then known as Operation Desert Shield. After spending seven months serving there, he spent time in Germany where he had been before that October.

When he returned to Brillion in September of 1991, the city had a parade for him, even though parades had subsided by that time. Giese says he still carries fond memories of that day.

Veterans from previous wars, like Peronto’s veteran Jerry, rarely received a warm welcome home. It made it even more emotional when people were waiting to give honor flight attendees a warm welcome home at the airport in Appleton.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the airport,” Peronto said. The group had been given a heads up that there might be a few people waiting, but the amount of people was a surprise, Peronto said.

Please see the complete story in the June 29, 2017 edition of The Brillion News. 

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