DARKE COUNTY — Darke County veterans and their families enjoyed a three-day trip to the nation’s capitol at the beginning of October.
The trip was sponsored by a number of local businesses, as well as through fundraising efforts by the Veteran Services office, including a comedy show featuring comedians Greg Hahn, Jeff Bodart, and Doug Morgan in May; a raffle in which a Montgomery County man won a special edition military tribute rifle in August; and a spaghetti dinner and silent auction held at the Greenville American Legion September 23.
The trip, attended by more than 50 veterans, family members, and a few Veteran Services officials, started September 28. On their first full day in Washington D.C., the group visited Arlington National Cemetery, where they laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Day Two saw trips to the White House, the Capitol Building, as well as the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II, and Lincoln Memorials.
Finally, on their way back to Ohio, the group visited the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia and the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“Everyone who went on the trip had a great time,” said Services Director Thomas Pitman. “We were able to raise all the funds for the trip through fundraisers and donations. So I know all the veterans and their families are very appreciative of that.”
Veterans of a number of different conflicts and branches of service attended the event.
“It was a mix,” Pitman said. “But a majority were Vietnam-era veterans.” Gulf War, Korean War, reservist, and National Guard veterans also took part in the trip.
One of those veterans was Byron Hart, who served in the United States Army from 1957 to 1959. Byron was one of the four individuals, along with Pitman, who laid the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. According to his wife, Barb Hart, the experience was a profound one for her husband.
“He said that really gave him chills, being in that ceremony and standing in that spot,” Hart said. “He was quite honored.”
Hart also had glowing things to say about the trip, and about the people at Darke County Veteran Services who planned it.
“It was an awesome trip,” Hart said. “The weather was perfect. And the people — everyone commented about how everybody became friends. We could not have asked for a better trip.”
Hart was also impressed by the memorials the group visited.
“The memorials were amazing,” Hart said. “The artists who designed them did an incredible job. You got a lump in your throat looking at them and thinking about what they stood for.”
Pitman also feels the trip was a success.
“A lot of pre-planning, a lot of coordination, and a lot of effort go into something like this, but in the end it all went very smoothly,” he said.
Pitman hopes to be able to plan another Washington D.C. trip in two years.
“This one was such a success, and everyone enjoyed it so much,” Pitman said. “We’d really like to do another one.”
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