Veterans return home from second WWII memorial trip

The 55 veterans who participated in the second WWII memorial trip returned home on Saturday May 7 to a welcome home dinner at the Herkimer V.F.W. The all expense paid trip to Washington D.C. included visits to Arlington National Cemetary, WWII memorial, a boat ride and luncheon on the Potomac River and a visit to the White House. A third memorial trip to take all remaining veterans who signed up for the trip will take place on September 22-24. The following is an excerpt from a diary of the trip's first day by World War II memorial trip committee members John Brennan and Susan Nabinger.

With a scheduled departure time of 5:30 AM, the Herkimer County veterans began arriving at 4:30 AM before the coffee was prepared. A group of volunteers from Herkimer B.P.O.E. 1439 Elks Club were on hand to assist the veterans with their luggage and load the coach. The Herkimer Elks sponsored the departures for both this and the fall 2004 trips.

Prior to departure, the veterans gathered for a group photo taken by Matt Stubley, who generously donated his time and talent to capture this historic moment. Father Ligato blessed the trip and lead those gathered in prayer.

At 5:40 AM, the veterans said their good-byes and proceeded to board the coach while surrounded by hugs, kisses, tears, and loud cheers. With red lights flashing, the coach was lead out of town by a police escort consisting of a New York State Police Car, a Herkimer County Sheriff's Car, a Sheriff's Car operated by Herkimer County Sheriff Chris Farber, and a Village of Herkimer Police car.

En route to Washington, the veterans watched videos about the sites they would be visiting in Washington, and enjoyed a few of the Dean Martin roast tapes to help lighten the mood. The veterans arrived at the Marriott at 3:00 PM to a reception and introduction of the hotel staff who would be attending to their needs while in the nation's capital.

After arriving, the veterans made their way to Arlington National Cemetery to view the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After the changing of the guard, the veterans were introduced to Sergeant Philip D. Fahrerholtz, a member of the battalion that guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Sergeant Fahrerholtz, who was born and raised in Seneca Falls, New York and has been assigned to guard duty at the tomb for over two years, spent over a half hour talking with the veterans, answering their questions, and posing for pictures with the them.

One of the veterans on the trip, whose brother is interned at the Arlington Cemetery, was brought to his grave site with flowers donated by Flowers by Suzanne which she then placed her brother's headstone. This was the first time she has been to her brother's grave site in over thirty years.

The veterans departed Arlington National Cemetery at 6:00 PM, arriving late for their dinner with Congressman Sherwood Boehlert. The Congressman spoke with them, helped serve some of them dinner, and dined with them throughout the course of the meal. After dinner, the group viewed a slide show about the White House and World War II Memorial. The veterans retired to their rooms at about 9:00 PM, excited about the next two days of the trip and their upcoming trip to the White House and World War II Memorial.

This diary of the Herkimer County World War II veterans was compiled by Susan Nabinger and John Brennan, two committee members who accompanied the veterans on their trip to the National World War II Memorial.

Herkimer County Veterans with Sergeant Philip Fahrenholz, a member of the color guard for the Tomb of the unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. (submitted photo)
Herkimer County Veterans with Sergeant Philip Fahrenholz,
a member of the color guard for the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
(submitted photo)

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