Vets to get quick trip to memorial
WACONIA, Minn. — More than 120 World War II veterans from the Waconia area will make a quick trip to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to see the national World War II Memorial.
The trip is a gift from the community.
The veterans will get a sheriff’s escort to their charter flight early Wednesday, and they’ll be welcomed home Wednesday night with a candlelight parade.
The Waconia Lions Club organized the trip and led a fundraiser to pay the more than $50,000 cost. Children collected $14,000 of the total, and a wounded veteran at home on leave from Iraq gave $500.
Doctors and nurses from Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia volunteered to accompany the vets, many of whom are frail.
"It’s a fantasy come true," said Elgin Dirks, 80. "I’d never go by myself. And I so want to see it."
"It took 60 years before these guys got a memorial, and maybe one or two of them have seen it," said Chuck Anderson, principal at Bayview Elementary School and a member of the Waconia Lions Club.
The veterans will have lunch at the Armed Forces Retirement Home and spend the afternoon visiting the World War II Memorial, which opened in April 2004, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Approximately 16 million men and women served with U.S. forces during World War II, and only about 3 million are still alive.
"Two of the guys I played football with in high school were killed," said Clarence Feltman, 83, who grew up in Young America and served in the 3rd Army under Gen. George Patton.
"One was killed when a Japanese kamikaze (suicide pilot) hit his ship," he said. "The other was on a tanker that was torpedoed."
"These are people we’ll never forget," said Albert Sauerer, 88, who fought with the 2nd Armored Division through the Battle of the Bulge.