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Barnes on special flight to honor Vietnam vets

Brewers reliever serves as guardian for trip from Wisconsin to DC
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes will be giving thanks to a trio of brothers, all Vietnam War veterans, when he gathers with his own family in Florida for Thanksgiving.

Barnes served as a guardian for one of those brothers, Grant Hagen, on a memorable Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4. Grant, Conn and Roger Hagen all served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975, and together joined the list of more than 5,500 war veterans to make the trip from the Honor Flight's hub in Southeastern Wisconsin.

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes will be giving thanks to a trio of brothers, all Vietnam War veterans, when he gathers with his own family in Florida for Thanksgiving.

Barnes served as a guardian for one of those brothers, Grant Hagen, on a memorable Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4. Grant, Conn and Roger Hagen all served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975, and together joined the list of more than 5,500 war veterans to make the trip from the Honor Flight's hub in Southeastern Wisconsin.

The brothers were on one of the first Honor Flights to include Vietnam War veterans, who just began making the single-day, all-expenses-paid-trip to visit D.C. monuments and Arlington National Cemetery in September.

"They all went to war at different times -- just think about that. It makes you think about the sacrifices that families have made for the country," Barnes said. "And they were good guys. It was eye-opening, because you always hear about bad things in the world, and then you have this experience, and it reminds you that there are still good people in the world."

Tweet from @SSHonorFlight: To all donors past, present and future, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Together we have flown more than 5,500 WI #veterans to DC on their #honorflight. We have a thousand more waiting for their turn. Donate: https://t.co/f37Pz5oJou pic.twitter.com/gCSUhaEm00

Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright helped Barnes connect with the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, which was founded in 2008. Barnes, Brewers television analyst Bill Schroeder and his wife, Kate, and Brewers senior director of community relations Katina Shaw all arrived before 5:30 a.m. to serve as guardians for the day. They did not return home until after 10 p.m.

Naturally, a visit to the Vietnam Memorial was particularly emotional. As was "mail call" on the flight home, as each veteran was presented with letters written ahead of time by family members and friends.

But just as meaningful, Barnes said, was the traditional culmination of a very long day. As veterans left the plane at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport, they were greeted by hundreds of rowdy well-wishers, including their own families.

"A lot of them said they never really got a welcome home coming back from war," Barnes said. "Seeing how emotional they got, a bunch of us broke down crying. The whole airport was full of welcome home signs.

"They didn't expect that. They expected to take the trip and remember what they did, but they don't like talking about it much. It was really cool to witness these people get the love that they deserve."

Tweet from @j_barnes30: As we should every day, I��� want to thank all the veterans and current military out there for everything you have sacrificed to protect this great country. Thank you 🇺 #VeteransDay

The Brewers are not formally affiliated with the Honor Flight organization, but former catcher Jonathan Lucroy is among those with ties to the team who have taken the trip. For information about nominating your own family member, or for volunteer opportunities, visit starsandstripeshonorflight.org.

"It's definitely an incredible trip," Barnes said. "I wish all veterans could experience that."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jacob Barnes