For many, it's been decades since they served our country in times of strife.

One could only imagine, then, how surreal it must have been for the local veterans who visited various war memorials in Washington, DC.

In all, 52 veterans and over a dozen caregivers participated in an all-expenses-paid bus trip to our nation's capitol once again sponsored by Richard and Darlene Nothstein of Palmerton.

The trip was for any veteran who hadn't attended in each of the past three years who either entered the service from Carbon County, or those who currently live in the county.

Those who went on the bus trip visited the Vietnam, World War II, Korean War, Marine and Tomb of the Unknowns memorials.

On their return home, the group stopped in York, where they were treated to a country buffet dinner.

Dick Frey of Palmerton, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1956-1960, went on the trip with his wife, Barbara Frey.

The trip was an experience Dick Frey said he'll never forget.

"It was one of the most wonderful times I ever had, a very nice experience," Frey said. "At the end, we were served a nice dinner; the meal was out of this world."

Frey said his favorite aspect of the trip was the changing of the guards.

"It was amazing; I just can't say enough about those two people [Richard and Darlene Nothstein]," he said. " We all got pins, a bag filled with goodies, and sang the Star Spangled Banner."

Charles Wildoner of Jim Thorpe, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1943-46, said he was anxious to see the World War II memorial, as well as the Marine Memorial.

"I thought they were very well done and depicted," Wildoner said. "This was the fourth trip, and I had been thinking about it since then, and I'm so happy that I had the chance to do that."

Wildoner said the generosity exhibited by the Nothsteins was hard to put into words.

"The Nothsteins were the most gracious host that anyone could ever hope for; they were so kind to everybody," he said. "It was worthwhile; I would encourage any veteran if they have the chance to attend."

Richard Nothstein said he and his wife got just as much satisfaction from the veterans who attended.

"The trip was another great day with a great bunch of people, our veterans," Nothstein said. "Seeing the veterans appreciation in their eyes and smiles, and an occasional tear, makes the whole trip worthwhile for everyone."

Nothstein said they laid a wreath at each of the three war memorials and had a moment of silent respect "for those that did so much, and it was very touching and all observed with silent dignity."

"Singing our national anthem at the World War II Memorial was very special, and everyone sang their hearts out," he said. "One vet said 'that made my day and I thought I would never sing again'; a very proud moment for all of us."