Mike Eggleston waves the flag for community service
He most certainly will never forget what happened over the next four days as World War II and Korean War veterans visited war memorials and other sights in and around Washington, D.C.
"It was really something to behold," said Eggleston, a two-year volunteer for VetsRoll, which is making plans for a third trip this year.
A Vietnam veteran, Eggleston went on last year's trip, which started quietly as the apprehensive vets slowly got to know their fellow travelers.
"Some of these people were going back in time 70 years to a point when things were really bad," Eggleston said. "Many had come out of a depression and gone into a war, and it was just as tough when they came home."
The group jelled as it toured Washington, even became "bubbly" on its return trip to Rock County.
"By the time we got to Chicago, it started to get solemn again, and when we got to Rockford, it was like we were going to a visitation," Eggleston said. "But the nearer we got to Beloit, we started seeing all these people along the road, waving flags, giving these people the welcome home and respect they deserve.
"It was just amazing, easily the most rewarding thing I've ever been a part of."
That's saying something. The owner of Eggleston Construction in Orfordville has made community service—"doing anything I can to help people," as he refers to it—a responsibility.
In addition to VetsRoll, he volunteers with The American Legion, Sons of The American Legion, Veterans United For Veterans, the Cubs Scouts and Boy Scouts. He's a passionate volunteer for the Orfordville Fire/EMS, a member of the village's plan commission and has been known to address the school board.
"I've shot my mouth off on more than one occasion," he said. "You don't have to like what I say or even agree with it, but that's the great thing about this country: Everybody can speak their piece."
It's hard to find anyone who won't agree that Eggleston does all he can to help his community and fellow veterans. He's been known to some to come across with a gruff, my-way-or-the-highway approach to solving problems.
A doer rather than a talker, Eggleston's an admitted perfectionist, and, he says, he's the ultimate judge of perfection.
"There's a lot of bluster there," said Kurt Stuvengen, a longtime friend. "The man has a heart of gold and would doing anything to help someone else."
Stuvengen's mother, Bobbe, was on the first VetsRoll trip and was met upon her return by Kurt and Eggleston.
"He's really the most unselfish person I've ever known," she said. "Everything he's ever done, he's done for someone else."
Eggleston isn't sure where that comes from. As for community service, he has no mentors.
"I just have a great sense of responsibility when it comes to helping people," he said. "We all have to make the attempt to do the right thing. It's a lot easier for people to say they'd really like to help, but they're too busy.
"Everybody's busy. If I can help in any way, I will."