story and photos by Penny Saltsman:
Twenty-eight individuals consisting of veterans and their families met at the Edmonson County Library on Monday, June 12, for their travels to Washington DC on a bus tour organized by Richard and Delores Jones and sponsored by Jett Tours. The crowd was greeted by Judge J.B. Hines and wife, Shaska who provided packs of water and snacks for the trip. The entire day was spent traversing to their destination, but the long trip gave the group plenty of time to refresh old friendships and get acquainted with new faces.
On Tuesday the group was joined by a certified tour guide who provided tidbits and sites of interest in the DC area. The bus stopped in front of the Capitol Building for a brief walk around and photo opportunity. The second stop of the day was the World War II Memorial highlighted with the Freedom Wall. This wall contains 4,048 gold stars. Each star represents 100 people who were killed or missing as a result of WWII. The majority of the veterans on the tour were Vietnam Veterans. They encountered a moving experience at the Vietnam Memorial Wall as they viewed the names of fellow soldiers and placed a plaque of remembrance at the foot of The Wall for the eleven Edmonson County soldiers killed in action in Vietnam.
Following the path from The Wall, the ensemble came upon the statue erected in honor of the medical corp. A replica of this statue is etched in the bench at the Veterans Courtyard in Brownsville. This stop ended with the viewing of the spectacular design of the Korean War Memorial. Before returning to their hotel, the bus made an unscheduled stop to visit the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. This memorial is relatively new and was erected to honor those veterans who are now disabled due to their service for their country.
Wednesday, the group set out for another day of touring which started with the massive and impressive National Marine Memorial better known as the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. Before leaving the area the group was able to visit the memorial dedicated to our four-time president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Then, back on the bus to a scheduled meeting and photo opportunity with Sen. Rand Paul.
The group’s plans were altered for the day when Sen. Paul arranged for an unscheduled tour of the Capitol Building. Sites of interest included the Visitor Center and Exhibition Hall, The Rotunda, National Statuary Hall, and the Crypt with its many statues. While viewing the statue of native Kentuckian Henry Clay, the group was joined by Rep. Brett Guthrie for an unscheduled visit and photo op. While on their way back to the hotel, the group made a stop for a brief photo opportunity at the White House lawn.
On Thursday morning the group returned to the Capitol for a brief meeting and photo op with Sen. Mitch McConnell. From there, they took a solemn and emotional tour of the Holocaust Museum. The last stop of the day was a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery highlighted by the guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard ceremony.
Friday meant the end of a fast-paced but unforgettable trip to Washington DC and the start of a long bus ride back home. Much to their surprise, the party was greeted by city and county law officers and fire departments who escorted the bus and its passengers, with flashing lights and sirens, back to its beginning destination. Veterans were greeted with open arms by members of the community and were served refreshments in celebration of their service to their country. It was an emotional time full of hugs, thank-yous, smiles, and happy tears.
A well-deserved “welcome home” to a small bunch of Vietnam soldiers who thought they had been forgotten. It was described as a perfect ending to a wonderful and memorable trip.