- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

MILWAUKEE (AP) - World War II and Korean War veterans not only got a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials erected in their honor, they also got a surprise.

Brewers all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy was among the dozens of volunteers traveling Saturday morning with the 88 veterans from Milwaukee for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Eb3J0Q ). Lucroy posed for pictures, signed autographs and shook hands.

“The thing about World War II and Korean War veterans, they’re getting up in age and they won’t be around for much longer,” Lucroy said. “Any time I can spend with them I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

The Honor Flight program provides free one-day trips for veterans to Washington to visit monuments and memorials.

World War II veteran Bill Johnston said Lucroy is his favorite catcher.

“He’s my favorite Brewer,” Johnston, 88, of West Allis, said after his grandson snapped his picture with Lucroy. “He’s the only catcher to get two hits in the All-Star Game.”

Accompanying Lucroy was John Coker Jr., his roommate during his freshman year at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Coker, a speedy center fielder, was drafted by the San Diego Padres out of high school.

But he and another man were seriously injured in September 2011 when his nine-person sniper team was ambushed in Afghanistan. Three people were killed in what was the deadliest day for the Oklahoma National Guard since the Korean War. Coker was awarded a Purple Heart. Coker now has difficulty walking because one leg is paralyzed from the knee down.

After earning a degree in sports medicine, Coker is in a pre-pharmacy program with the hope of enrolling at the University of Oklahoma.

“I have a lot of respect for these guys,” said Coker, whose grandfather served in Vietnam. “They set the foundation and standards for what we’re still doing in the military.”

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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