In appreciation of their service, 38 east Texas World War II veterans were honored with an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC on May 11-12 to visit the World War II Memorial and other sites. Expenses for the trip were paid by BGC.
In addition to the World War II Memorial, veterans were also able to visit Arlington National Cemetery to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They also visited the Iwo Jima Memorial and the US Capitol where they were given a personal tour by Representative Louis Gohmert. Many veterans were also able to see the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.
One of the highlights of the trip was the welcome the veterans received on arrival at the airport in Washington DC. In addition to a water salute as the plane approached the gate, the veterans were honored inside by active duty US Marines as well as cheers and applause from hundreds of other citizens.
“Visiting the World War II Memorial was wonderful,” said Hal Johnson of Canton. “But that tribute from those active duty soldiers…that was something special.”
Another highlight of the trip was letters presented to the veterans from local students at “mail call.” Students from Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Grace Community School in Tyler, Velma Penny Elementary in Lindale and Bullard Intermediate and High School wrote messages of gratitude to the veterans.
“I’m sure proud of the kids and the way their teachers have taught them,” said Al Stevens of Tyler. “They seem to know what it means to win and lose a war. They expressed themselves so well and seem to understand that we have our freedoms today because somebody defended them.”
Dave Spencer of Pittsburg added, “They weren’t long letters, but they showed true appreciation. I’ve read my letters three times. One asked me to write back and said she always wanted a pen pal that was a World War II vet. She’s got one in me.”
Stevens added, “It was just one surprise after another. From the time we met at the store with the cheering crowd to returning back the next night to the nice flag tribute from the Welcome Home Soldier group, it was just wonderful. It was quite an honor.”
The veterans making the trip come from many east Texas communities, including Tyler, Longview, Athens, Lindale, Mineola, Chandler, Frankston, Whitehouse, Bullard, Flint, Hawkins, Lone Oak, Gladewater, Jefferson, Canton, Big Sandy, Wills Point, Pittsburg, Quitman, Terrell and Yantis.
“It was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard of, let alone done,” Spencer said. “The whole thing was just absolutely fabulous.”
“The purpose of this trip was to honor these veterans and to sincerely say thank you,” said Rick Ellis, chief marketing officer for Brookshire’s. “Those of us that were fortunate enough to travel with these men are honored to be able to assist and serve them. They become like family. We live in a wonderful country with many freedoms that these men and many other men and women like them defended.”
Noting that the World War II Memorial was not built until 2004, Ellis stated that most of these veterans have never had a chance to see it. “We’re glad we were able to provide that opportunity for them.”
“There is an engraved quote at the World War II Memorial from President Harry S. Truman that perhaps sums up our feelings best, Ellis added. “President Truman said, ‘Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.’”
View more photos of the return of our Vets from their Washington, D.C. trip.