For ER nurse, a flight never to be forgotten

By Kathy Matthews / August 2011

Christopher Honrath, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at University Hospital, compares his job to serving in the military: It’s exciting, ever-changing and offers the  opportunity to help others.

Recently, Mr. Honrath experienced one of the most thrilling days of his life when he traveled with his grandfather, George Tobalski, a Wisconsin resident and fellow Marine veteran, on the Never Forgotten Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Never Forgotten Honor Flight is a national organization that flies World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to visit their memorials.

From left: Jim Tobalski, George Tobalski and Christopher Honrath

Mr. Honrath served in the Marine Corps nearly 50 years after his grandfather, a veteran of both World War II and Korea. He surprised Mr. Tobalski, the former master sergeant, by being his guardian on the trip.

“Every vet has a guardian who goes along on the trip with them and my grandfather was expecting my uncle, Jim Tobalski, to meet him in D.C.,” Mr. Honrath said. “When he went to an orientation dinner the day before the trip, I surprised him. He was given the number 18 and was supposed to find his guardian, who would also have the number 18. That was me! The three of us toured the memorials together.

 “It was a wonderful experience being with all those vets, 90 men who had amazing stories to tell. Like many of them, my grandfather never talked a lot about his service time. Yet here he was sharing his stories. He really opened up on the trip, and it was such an honor to be a part of it with him.”

Mr. Honrath has his own story to tell. After his discharge from the Marine Corps in 1999, he tried numerous career paths. One of the jobs he tried was as a nursing assistant.

“Something clicked,” he said. “Nursing was the closest thing I had found to what I enjoyed about being a Marine. The teamwork, the variety of work and being able to really help people attracted me.”

He worked as a transporter at University Hospital for two and a half years while he attended nursing school. In December, he received his degree and was hired at University Hospital.

Mr. Honrath serves on the civilian front now, but for a day, the former corporal and his grandfather shared the experience of a lifetime with their fellow veterans.