Rockford (WREX) — Mark Finnegan was never in the service, but he comes from a long line of veterans.
“My brother said maybe we should do something to honor our father, and his service to the country.” said Finnegan.
That special something was ‘Vets Roll’. Similar to an honor flight, once a year, Vets Roll drives down to Washington D.C. and takes more than 200 veterans on 10 buses. It’s a four day, once in a lifetime trip.
“We wanted to give the vets more time to share their stories together, and just have more of that private time over 4 days.” said Finnegan.
For Robert Hagemann, going to D.C. and getting that welcome, was indescribable.
“Real emotional, especially when we came back and see 500 motorcycles and 5,000 people greeting us back in. When I came back from Korea, we got a cup of coffee and a stale donut.” said Hagemann.
But it wasn’t just the trip itself that made it an unforgettable experience, it was also Harold Kuntzelman.
The two were friends throughout school in Leaf River before enlisting in the war in 1955. They went their separate ways, and each served in the army for 3 years, before returning home never to see each other again. Until last year.
“I walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder and I said Bob are you looking for me? And that was it.” said Kuntzelman.
The pair ended up on the same Vets Roll trip 63 years later, and that’s not all
“Not to have any communication with him at all for 63 years is hard to believe. Especially when we only live 35 miles apart.” said Hagemann.
Now, the two are once again inseparable.
“I’m not going to let him go now, he’s going to have to put up with me until he dies now.” said Kuntzelman.
And its all thanks to Vets Roll, inspiring 816, one trip of a lifetime at a time.
“I think it’s the best thing they could offer for veterans.” said Kuntzelman.