April 30, 2007
A trip to remember
Carver County vets visit Washington DC
By Ivan Raconteur, Staff Writer, and Matt Kane, DHJ Sports Editor
They served their country with honor during World War II, and last week, their neighbors got together to do something for them.
Early in the morning of April 25, 122 World War II veterans from across Carver County embarked on one last mission together a trip to Washington DC to visit the World War II memorial.
They boarded a charter flight to the nation’s capital, had lunch at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, and toured the memorial, which opened in 2004.
When they returned to Waconia late Wednesday night, they were greeted by well-wishers who lined the streets holding candles and waving flags.
“It brings the community together. It’s a way to say we care, and we thank them for all that they did,” parade coordinator and pastor of the Moravian Church in Waconia, John Wallace said.
The trip was made possible by donations from county residents, businesses, and the Lions, who coordinated the effort.
Lions Chuck Anderson and Rick Wagner heard about a similar trip that was arranged in North Carolina, and brought the idea to the Waconia Lions club.
The Lions saw it as “a great opportunity.” They organized the trip, and the community-wide fundraiser that collected the $50,000 needed to pay for it.
Many groups and individuals contributed, including students, who collected $14,000 in coins.
The focus was on doing something for the veterans.
“They were excited. Some of the guys hadn’t seen each other in years. For some, it was a homecoming, or a class reunion. Some of the men were dressed in their Navy whites or their Marine uniforms, with their medals, and others had canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. There were smiles, and excitement,” Wallace said.
The vets came into Waconia on tour buses, which formed part of a parade that wound through downtown before stopping at Trinity Lutheran Church. When they arrived at the church, a pastor or priest boarded each bus to give a closing prayer.
The parade route was lined with people of all ages, including a baby named “America.”
Organizers collected donations so the veterans could make the trip and it wouldn’t cost them a penny.
“They could afford to send 120 veterans, but sent 122. They didn’t want to turn anybody down,” Wallace commented.
Lions accompanied the vets on the trip, as did two doctors and six nurses volunteered by Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia.
Witnesses said it was an event that brought the community together to honor those who gave so much to their country.
“I don’t think it will ever get lost. They’ve experienced things that most of us have never, ever, come close to. This is the least we can do on a cloudy night spend a little time and say ‘thank you.’ I think it’s well worth the time, especially the way the community and the world is now,” Wallace said.