A tour of honor and gratitudeIt was really something. Unbelievable. Awesome. Wonderful. This is how four World War II veterans from Alexandria described their recent trip to Washington, D.C. to see the World War II Memorial.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
It was really something. Unbelievable. Awesome. Wonderful.
This is how four World War II veterans from Alexandria described their recent trip to Washington, D.C. to see the World War II Memorial.
Art Berg, Ruth McDonald, Larry Cline and Don Leland traveled together to see the World War II Memorial as part of the Tour of Honor through the St. Cloud branch of the Honor Flight Network (HFN).
HFN is a national non-profit organization that takes World War II veterans to see the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. – free of charge to the veterans.
Although it was a short trip – only two days – the four Alexandria veterans all felt it was a trip of a lifetime.
“It was really something special,” said Art Berg, who served in the United States Army during World War II. Berg said he was one of the first 20-year-olds drafted out of Pope County.
He served a total of 37 months, 36 of which were overseas.
Ruth McDonald, who was an Army Corps nurse, served her country for three years.
“It was awesome to see the memorial. It’s a great memorial,” she said. “We had a wonderful trip. Everything was paid for and they take good care of you.”
McDonald said she would love to go back someday to see the Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Larry Cline, who served from May of 1942 to December of 1945 in the Army Signal Corps, said the trip couldn’t have been any better.
“They really treated us like heroes,” he exclaimed.
He was awfully fond of the receptions and the “welcoming home” they received, both in Washington, D.C. and when the group arrived back in Minnesota.
During World War II, Cline was stationed in Australia.
Don Leland served in the Army Signal Corps – from August of 1943 through February of 1946. During that time, he was stationed in England and in France.
Leland also talked about the big welcome the group of veterans received when they arrived in Washington, D.C.
“It was pretty much overwhelming,” he said.
Leland, along with a couple of the others, has visited Washington, D.C. before, but they visited before the World War II Memorial was built in 2004.
Leland called the trip, “One of the highlights of my life. It was tremendous.”
He said while they were in Washington, D.C. visiting the different memorials, many of the “young people” would come up to the veterans, thank them and shake their hands.
“That was so touching,” he said.
Berg noted that the group, which consisted of about 35 veterans and 20 volunteer helpers, left early in the morning on April 24 from St. Cloud.
On the first day of the trip, the group of veterans visited the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Korean Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.
The next day, the group went to the World War II Memorial, which was the highlight for many of them.
They also visited Arlington National Cemetary, saw the changing of the guards and visited the Roosevelt Memorial.
Berg noted that although they packed in a lot during the two-day trip, every bit was worthwhile.
“Nobody should pass this up,” he said. “It was a terrific trip.”
Berg also commented on the group’s arrival in Washington, D.C. He said there were about 200 people waiting for them, and as they departed the plane, the crowd began cheering and clapping and hugging the veterans as they went by.
“It was really something,” he said, explaining that when he arrived home after World War II, there wasn’t a “homecoming” celebration or anything. He had only been greeted by a handful of people. “This was just unbelievable. I don’t think there were any dry eyes. It puts an end to it now.”
Berg also had some advice for people: “When you see a soldier, say thank you. And if you are a soldier, serve proudly.”