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April 20, 2024, Honor Flight: US Coast Guard veteran Richard Taetsch of West Bend, WI

Washington Co., WI – On Saturday, April 20, 2024, US Coast Guard veteran Richard “Rick” Taetsch of West Bend, WI, will be joining five other Washington County vets on the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

 

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Taetsch was in the Coast Guard. A graduate of Iron River High School in Upper Michigan, he entered the service at 18 and completed basic training.

Taetsch is on the very far right of the photo

Taetsch was part of Romeo troop. He remembered training was extremely rigorous.

“They literally kicked our a**,” he said. “They would make you just feel like I’m going to rip your heart out and it worked because you became a man.”

After training, Taetsch spent his career in search and rescue taking care of the shorelines of Lake Michigan.  “There were disasters; many, many hundreds, actually, we’d go and do whatever we could,” he said.

Most of the time, especially in spring, Taetsch said they would recover bodies from the Milwaukee River. “Many people took their own lives by jumping in the river and we had the job of getting them out,” he said. “You’d never have a clue that would happen. We had hundreds of calls including boats on fire and a mayday call where a guys million-dollar sailboat got destroyed just outside Bradford Beach.”

After four years in the Coast Guard, Taetsch returned home and worked for his dad at the family grocery.

“It was called the Sweet Corner IGA,” said Taetsch. “My dad, Ray, owned it with his brother Herman.”

Taetsch described a very Mayberry setting. “The store was started by my grandfather. At the time it was just a house in Iron River, MI, which had a population of about 3000.

“My grandfather had six or six or seven daughters and they ran the store out of the back of the house. Because they were all girls, and quite lovely girls, it got the name sweet corner, because the guys would go there to do grocery shopping and you had these lovely women that work there,” he said. “When my grandfather sold it to my dad, he kept the name and we worked there for years.”

Taetsch is one of 6 veterans from Washington County, WI
traveling on the April 20 Honor Flight

 

Taetsch, 75, who does a lot of work with the St. Frances Cabrini Church and the local hospice said he was visiting with a veteran when they started discussing the Honor Flight.

“I told him I didn’t serve in Vietnam or WWII and I didn’t think I deserved to go,” said Taetsch. “But this man in hospice said it was the most uplifting experience.

“But this guy was in Vietnam, he saw the deaths, he had friends die, and he just said to me, you have to go. You just have to go.”

Taetsch, paused… “He said, you have to promise me you’re gonna go.

“So, I’m fulfilling that promise.”

Taetsch flies out of Milwaukee on the April 20, 2024, Honor Flight. His daughter Heather will be his guardian.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is the Milwaukee area hub of the Honor Flight Network.  Founded in 2008, Stars and Stripes Honor Flight has flown more than 7,600 WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a one-day, all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C.

On a side note: If you think Rick Taetsch looks familiar, we did a story on him in 2022 as Rick loves to grow dahliahs and his flowers are on display annually in front of St. Frances Cabrini Church and Kathy Hospice.  Click HERE to read more.

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