Bio: Decker, Ronald - Veteran Honored with Flight to D.C. ( 2019)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 4/24/2019
Dorchester Veteran Honored Through Flight to D.C. (Decker - 2019)
By Valorie Brecht
During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., veteran Ronald Decker received the welcome he never got when he first came home from Vietnam.
Decker and 101 other veterans from northern and central Wisconsin went on Never Forgotten Honor Flight #35 April 8 to view the memorials erected in their honor. Of the 101 veterans, one served in World War II, 19 served in the Korean War and the rest served in Vietnam.
Clark County resident Ronald Decker as one of 102 veterans to go on a Never Forgotten Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., April 8. He said his favorite moment on the trip was probably when he got off the plane in Washington, D.C., and was surprised by a group of people there to welcome him and the rest of the veterans and thank them for their service to the country. Submitted photo
Decker was one of the Vietnam-era veterans. He was drafted to the Army in 1965. He went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training and advanced individual training. In the end of 1965, he was transferred to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. In 1966, he was sent to Vietnam. He spent 11 months there, working as a stock control and accounting specialist.
“We had to take in supplies from the ships or from the air when they came in and then we had to deliver them out to all the units. I was mostly in the stockyard,” he said.
Decker was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal for his time in the service.
His wife was the one who encouraged him to apply for the Never Forgotten Honor Flight, which he did in 2016. He kept watching his name move up the waiting list online until it was his turn to go. Decker had not been to Washington, D.C. since the early 80s when he went for the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial.
The honoring of veterans actually began the night before the flight. The veterans and their families were treated to a banquet at Wausau’s Hilton Garden Inn where hey heard a fellow Vietnam veteran speak and listened to patriotic music from the Trillium Band and Center Stage Singers.
Bright and early the next morning, the veterans departed from the Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee to fly to the nation’s capital.
“When we got to Reagan Airport, they had a big reception for us,” said Decker.
The veterans were greeted by several members of local royalty, like Mrs. District of Columbia, as well as many others who came to show their support.
“It was a surprise to us. It kind of hit home because we never were congratulated when we came back from Vietnam. Actually, when we came back from Vietnam, I ended up in Fort Lewis, Washington on quarantine and I flew into Milwaukee. I couldn‘t get out of the airport in Milwaukee because of all the protecting and rioting going on. And I got a ride with the sheriff patrol from the airport to my cousin’s house in Butler. They wouldn’t even let me take a taxi. They said it probably wouldn’t be safe. So, it was a lot different.”
After arriving in D.C ., the veterans got on motor coaches and had a police escort all throughout the day.
“We were treated like royalty. We never had to stop for a red light. We went down Pennsylvania Avenue and cops were flying around stopping all the traffic. It was neat that way,” said Decker.
The veterans visited the World War II, FDR, Korea, Vietnam, Lincoln, Iwo Jima and Air Force memorials. They also stopped at Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the retiring of the colors and changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Decker said the memorial he was the most interested in was the Vietnam Memorial. He was able to find names he was looking for on it.
On the way home, each veteran received a stack of thank-you letters from family members, friends, students, local organizations and state representatives. They received a warm reception upon arriving back in Mosinee as their families, Legion and Auxiliary personnel, military members were all waiting to greet them.
The veterans also were given a gift box from Operation Gratitude full of items, including sunglasses, a bracelet, a scarf, a sun lotion, granola bars, compression socks and a notepad.
Decker said he appreciated all of the gratitude and kind gestures he received.
“It was a great experience over what it was when we got out of Vietnam. It was a 180-degree turnaround, the way people treated you,” he said.
“If anyone has a chance to go [on the Honor Flight], they should go.”
Ronald Decker of Dorchester is given a handshake and “Thank you” upon returning back to Wisconsin after a Never Forgotten Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Decker was a member of the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Submitted photo
Decker lives in Dorchester. After his time in the military, Decker worked for the Farmers Union in Medford. He was general manager there 11 years. After that, he farmed and operated his own excavation business. He sold the farm to his son and continued his excavating business for several years. He is retired.
Decker is married to his wife, Carolyn, and they have five children: Stacey Christianson of Medford, Connie (Allen) Gurtner of Colby, Mark (Judy) Decker of Medford, David (Jessica) Decker of Colby and Scott (Michelle) Decker of Abbotsford. He has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Decker is a member of the Dorchester American Legion and the Colby Veterans of Foreign Wars. He enjoys hunting, fishing and trapping and spending time at his cabin. He especially enjoys doing all of those activities with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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