Serving as Honor Flight Northern Colorado guardian was a life-changing experience for Windsor High School football star | MyWindsorNow.com

Serving as Honor Flight Northern Colorado guardian was a life-changing experience for Windsor High School football star

James Redmond
jredmond@greeleytribune.com

In three days, Windsor High School senior Landon Schmidt, 18, went from football player walking out under gridiron lights on a Friday to walking over a Washington, D.C., tarmac escorting World War II veterans on a Sunday.

Going on Honor Flight Northern Colorado's 15th biannual trip Sept. 13 was a dream come true for Schmidt, who holds veterans in high esteem.

Last year, of his own volition, he took it upon himself to collect donations for the Honor Flight program and managed to raise $2,100. He presented the check to the organization during the school's Veteran's Day ceremony last year.

When Schmidt has time, he frequents Windsor's Good Samaritan Society — Water Valley Senior Living Resort, where he can spend time with people three and four times his age. He likes hearing their stories and learning how people lived more than half a century ago.

“He’s a very impressive kid.

— Stan Cass, president of Honor Flight Northern Colorado

He especially likes hearing from those who served in the military. It's his passion.

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The same passion that drove Schmidt to raise money for Honor Flight then spurred him to ask to go along as a guardian. He wanted the chance to give back to the veterans who had shared so much with him. And he wanted to hear their stories.

However, as a minor at the time, he couldn't go.

"I just kept nagging and nagging," he said with a smile. Then he turned 18, and his dad agreed to go along. He wasted no time and found himself a guardian on the September trip.

His enthusiasm and passion for working with veterans makes him stand out.

"He's a very impressive kid," said Stan Cass, president of Honor Flight Northern Colorado.

Schmidt was assigned as a guardian to a World War II veteran.

"He was always talking to them," Cass said with a chuckle. "He got a lot of ammunition for some good stories."

Schmidt said the trip was emotional and life-changing. He had heard many stories, but going on the honor flight and visiting the memorials with the veterans made those stories feel real for him, he said.

Many of the veterans cried as they saw the monuments and remembered their service, Schmidt said. He admits he shed a tear or two himself when the veterans relived some of their experiences with him.

It was a fulfilling experience, one that galvanized him. He's doing the fundraiser again this year and wants it to become a tradition.

Some of the veterans told Schmidt they hadn't talked about parts of the war until they shared it with him.

"They've held it back for 70 years and now they're starting to talk about it," he said.

The Honor Flight program is important, Schmidt said. Listening to the veterans share their stories with one another, the pain and sadness the veterans endured became obvious, he said. Going on the flight, supporting the veterans and seeing what that care can mean to them is something everyone should experience, Schmidt said.

"I've met some lifelong friends," he said. "One even tried to come to my football game on Friday."

More to come

Windsor High School senior Landon Schmidt will continue to support Honor Flight Northern Colorado.

He’s raising money for the next Honor flight. To donate, drop a check made out to “The Community Foundation” at the main office of Windsor High School, 1100 Main St, Windsor.

Schmidt hopes the fundraiser becomes a tradition at the high school.

Each year few veterans from wars past are alive to make the Honor Flight trip, Schmidt said. With so little time left, it becomes even more important to take the time now, while it can still matter, to help and support those veterans, he said.

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