Maxine Harris Helps Veterans Take a Memorial Visit to Washington DC
14th Recreational Vehicle Convoy (RVC) Trip, September 27-29, 2013
World War II and Korean Conflict Veterans To Washington DC
Friday, 9/27/13 – 6:00 am: Veterans, RV drivers, guardians and friends gathered at the VFW Post in Springfield, Ohio for pre-trip organization and breakfast. At 8:20 am, six RVs with police escort began our travel day as a group of people waved goodbye with small American flags. Our special guests included 17 veterans from World War II and the Korean Conflict. Our group consisted of 35 people, including veterans, drivers, and guardians. A daughter was serving as guardian for her father.
We made sure the veterans had our unwavering attention with plenty of snacks, food, drinks, rest stop breaks, conversation, arms and hands to steady them as they boarded or exited the RVs and tour bus, walking canes and wheelchairs if needed, making sure they were on time and assuring they did not get lost. A nurse was among our travelers to offer medical service and advice when needed.
First lunch break occurred at the border of Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful weather day and a huge picnic lunch was made available to all. Our travels ended in Frederick, Maryland, where we had dinner at Bob Evans. The only glitch of the entire trip occurred as we attempted find the entrance to the Hampton Inn. Our driver could see the hotel but could not find the entrance. After a failed attempt we unintentionally drove back onto the highway and spent the next half hour finding our way back to the hotel. Our tired passengers were ready for a good night’s sleep and looking forward to their big day in the city.
Saturday, 9/28/13 – THE BIG DAY: We had breakfast at the hotel, boarded a tour bus and traveled the remaining distance to Washington DC. A documentary video was viewed giving information about the construction of the World War II Memorial.
First stop – World War II Memorial. Passengers and wheelchairs were unloaded. Many veterans thought that they could make it through the day without a wheelchair. Extra chairs were made available in case they changed their minds, and they did. They were grateful that guardians and helpers insisted. Plenty of time was provided for walking around the memorial, taking photos, visiting with other Honor Flight groups, and witnessing numerous unexpected events, such as a flag ceremony with the singing of the National Anthem by a beautiful female singer dressed in the uniform of the President’s band, followed by taps. Many tourists eagerly shook the hands of the veterans and thanked them for their service.
Back on the tour bus – a delicious box lunch provided by Arby’s was waiting for us. Our bus driver drove through DC pointing out interesting sites, including the Capitol building, the White House, the IRS building, Smithsonian, etc. We drove by the Navy Memorial (only seen from the bus) which consists of the “Granite Sea” map of the world, towering masts with signal flags, fountain pools and waterfalls and The Lone Sailor statue.
Lincoln Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial – Everyone had enough time to explore these three memorials which were in walking distance of each other. Each very impressive with their own unique style and significance. At the Vietnam Memorial, there were catalogs with all names listed and their location on the wall. Today, a volunteer lady was also available to help locate the name of a loved one. This wall includes over 58,000 names of those who died and those who were missing in action.
Iwo Jima and Arlington Cemetery – A stop was made at the Marine Corps Memorial for a group photo. Afterwards we entered Arlington Cemetery and witnessed the Changing of the Guard ritual beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Very impressive and moving. At the edge of the cemetery, we were able to view the tombstone of Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II (nothing fancy, a stone exactly like all the others), a memorial stone to the Challenger disaster, the Iran Hostage incident, and the space shuttle Columbi
Air Force Memorial – we had a few minutes to view this impressive and one of the newest memorials. The three stainless steel spires reach as high as 270 feet and represent the Thunderbirds performing their signature “bomb burst” maneuver. Only three of the four contrails are depicted, as the absent fourth suggest the “missing man formation” traditionally used at Air Force funeral fly-overs.
Our day ended with dinner at the Cracker Barrel and a good night’s sleep before traveling home on Sunday.
Sunday, 9/29/13: After breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and boarded the RVs to begin the trip home. Our travel day was uneventful except for an accident at a travel stop station along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. One of our driver/helpers Kelly tripped and fell on the cement, causing a nasty skinned knee and elbow. Her eight year old daughter Katelyn was so upset and in tears that her mommy was hurt. Thankfully, nurse Rhonda was immediately on the scene to patch things up. Our lunch stop today was at Cabela’s in Wheeling, West Virginia. Our group had a private dining room. A big surprise came when we were told that the manager was providing our meal free of charge!
6:30 pm arrival back at VFW Post in Springfield: A large crowd of greeters awaited our caravan, including several members of a Cub Scout unit who stood patiently waiting and saluting the veterans. Once everyone was inside, these Cub Scouts marched in and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Our veterans, though tired and weary after all the activity of the past three days, stood and saluted the American flag. Snacks were provided. More photos taken. Information exchanged. Luggage collected. Many goodbyes were said. Many, many hugs exchanged. Memories of a lifetime made. It was almost as if this group of new “best friends” didn’t want it to end.
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Experiences like this are played out every day at these national memorials by people from every state. Our RVC unit from Springfield, Ohio, is the only one who travels by vehicle and is offered to those who would prefer not to travel by plane. We are already planning our 15th trip to take place in 2014. If you know of any veteran who would qualify for this great experience, at no cost to the veteran, have them contact our Director, Dian Holland, at 937-215-8385 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for an application.
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