EATON — Preble County Veterans Services took a group of 53 veterans and their families to Washington D.C. from Thursday, May 16 through Saturday, May 18. The group had the opportunity to visit Arlington Cemetery, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Flight 93 National Memorial.
This trip was the sixth under the direction of Director Terry Pendergraft, who is also retiring this year. It is funded by donations by the American Legion, Preble County Honor Guard, and private individuals. The remaining funds were contributed by the veterans attending the trip.
The trip began early morning on Thursday, May 16, with a police escort from Preble County to the Montgomery County line. According to Pendergraft, the City of Eaton Police and Preble County Sheriff’s Office are instrumental in planning this trip. Their participation helps to make the veterans who attend feel special.
“We appreciate all the effort they put in to support the veterans as well as we support the FOP, Sheriff’s Office, and everything. When these guys see these lights come on and the police escort leading us out of town, it gives them a lot of respect for the police officers and it really gets their energy up and gets them energized as we’re being escorted out of town,” Pendergraft said.
“Likewise, we’ll call Sheriff Mike Simpson when we’re almost back into Preble County. It will be dark, the lights will come on, and they will pick us up and take us back into Preble County. These guys will wake up about that time and will be very excited. It will give them that last bit of energy to get us over the hump, off the bus, and back home. It is a good experience.”
Pendergraft added, it is important for Veterans Services to host the Washington D.C. trip because of the many veterans who have never been to the Nation’s Capital before.
“It is important, especially on this trip, because we had so many new veterans who had never been to D.C. before and they couldn’t afford to go. We were able to raise enough money to afford them the opportunity to go with us. That gives me chills to be able to do that, I’m very humbled by that,” he said.
Veteran Lee Houston has traveled to Washington D.C. with Veterans Services once before. He found the trip to be educational and fun, as his last trip with Veterans Services was his first trip to Washington D.C.
“I think the Korean War Memorial was my favorite thing we saw when in D.C. That was the time when I was born and its not like anything else I’ve ever seen before,” Houston said. “This trip gets the veterans together, for one. We get to know each other, enjoy the fellowship, and share experiences. Then there are the things we get to see. A lot of us wouldn’t make the trip here by ourselves.”
City of Eaton Mayor Gary Wagner even attended the veterans trip, both as a local leader and as a veteran himself.
“This trip was very well organized and I can’t thank Terry Pendergraft enough for all he has done. I wish him the best going forward,” Wagner said. “The Korean Memorial was my favorite, because it looks so real. It really looked like those soldiers in that field were looking at you. The one that impressed me the most was that last soldier, who was looking to see if anyone was behind him.
“It is important for veterans services to have this trip, because maybe your normal veteran can’t drive all the way there and so they’ll never see those memorials. I think it is a good thing to get these veterans together to go on this trip. It is good to have that fellowship.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH