Vets trip to D.C. 'just beautiful'

Mon, Oct 3, 2005


HERKIMER - For John Le Grand, the only thing better than making the first of three trips to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., was seeing off the other two groups and greeting them when they returned.

"I guess I liked to see the looks on their faces when they went and when they came back," said Le Grand, of Little Falls.

An Army Air Corps Gunnery mechanic during the war, Le Grand was one of 180 Herkimer County veterans who received an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation's capital as an expression of gratitude for their service.

The program, paid for with private donations from area businesses and community groups, was the first and only known attempt to provide trips for all able-bodied World War II veterans anywhere in the nation, organizers said.

The last and largest group returned Sept. 24 after a three-day trip that took them to the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the White House. Among the 89 men and women who made the trip was Anthony Bonvino of Ilion, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Philippines.

Bonvino said the trip was an excellent opportunity for himself and others to see the capital and reflect on their service.

"The timing of the whole trip went perfectly," Bonvino said.

Particularly important to Bonvino was being able to visit Arlington National Cemetery and lay a donated wreath at the grave of his uncle, Carl F. Cherico, a career military man who also served in World War II.

Walt Czuryla, a Navy veteran who served in the Pacific theater, said it was important that able-bodied veterans made the trip, particularly to visit the recently dedicated World War II Memorial.

"The chances are at our age we would probably never have the opportunity to see the memorial," Czuryla said. "You couldn't thank them enough."

Mary Elizabeth O'Connor of Herkimer, who served in the Navy WAVES during the war, made the second trip in May and said it was a special experience that the community should be proud of.

O'Connor, who has visited the nation's capital on several occasions, said she had to be talked into going, but was happy she did, particularly after seeing the World War II Memorial.

"It was just beautiful," she said. "You stand there in awe."

Local veterans stand at the World War II Memorial in Washington. (submitted photo)
Local veterans stand at the World War II
Memorial in Washington.
(submitted photo)

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