They recounted old war stories, paid homage to their brothers-in-arms, and were shown the kind of respect they so rightfully deserve.

While their circumstances may have differed, the common thread they share is that their heroic deeds are forever woven into the very fabric of our country.

Patriotism took front and center stage in our nation's capitol as Carbon County veterans took an all-expenses paid bus trip to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, thanks again to goodwill ambassadors Richard and Darlene Nothstein of Palmerton, who sponsored the trip. It was open to any veteran from any time period who did not go on past trips who either entered the service from or currently live in the county.

Upon arrival, the veterans visited the Vietnam, World War II, Korean War, and U.S. Marine Corp memorials, as well as the Arlington Cemetery, where a wreath was laid at the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."

A member of the National Guard from 1961-63, Norman Sheckler of Lehighton said he had the time of his life.

"It was great" Sheckler said. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Sheckler said he enjoyed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as his discovery that late boxing great Joe Louis is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

A resident of Franklin Township, Sheckler said he was also able to spot the name of the late Ronnie Christman – whom Franklin's Christman Field is named after – listed on the Vietnam War Memorial.

Two other moments stood out in Sheckler's mind.

The first was when he recalled how a bunch of little girls put out their hands to shake the hands of veterans. The other was at Country Buffet, where Sheckler said a waitress shook their hands and thanked them for serving our country.

"It makes you stop to think," he said. "We had lots of laughs, lots of fun."

And well they should, said Richard Nothstein, who said the day was great and the weather cooperative.

"The veterans all seemed to have been really happy with the trip," Richard Nothstein said. "Some of them reconnected with their buddies; one guy said it was the first time in 21 years he could talk about it."

As he and his wife observed from afar, Nothstein said the veterans "were all very grateful and gracious."

"It was a grand and glorious day," he said. "The whole purpose was to say thank you to those that gave so much."

In 2008, 75 Korean War and World War II veterans took the trip. Last year, 121 Vietnam, World War II, and Korean War veterans who did not travel the year before participated.