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Local vets travel to Washington

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    TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Vietnam, Korean War and World War II veterans, along with their caregivers and Richard and Darlene Nothstein, gather together in front of the Iwo Jima Monument in Washington, D.C. as part of a bus trip to our nation's capitol on Wednesday.
Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

They valiantly battled in the trenches for our country's freedom in days of yore.

For their struggles, a group of Carbon County veterans were treated to a special show of thanks by local ambassadors of goodwill.

Figures show 121 Vietnam, World War II and Korean War veterans along with 10 caregivers traveled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday as part of an all-expenses paid trip.

Veterans who either entered the service from Carbon County or who currently live in the county anxiously departed Palmerton and Lehighton by bus for a visit to our nation's capitol.

For the second consecutive year, the trip was sponsored by Richard and Darlene Nothstein of Palmerton. Last year, about 75 veterans participated in the bus trip to D.C.

As part of this year's trek, the veterans visited the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Marine memorials, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Located on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial is comprised of 56 pillars and a pair of arches that surround a plaza and fountain.

The Korean War Memorial features 19 statues that depict 14 Army, three Marines, one Navy and one Air Force service person that represent an ethnic cross section.

Not far from there is the Vietnam Memorial, which boasts the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which is the most recognized part of the memorial.

Also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, the United States Marine Corps War Memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world. The 32-foot tall life-size model includes a 60-foot high flagpole placed on a 10-foot high base.

Located in the Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to American servicemen who have died without their remains being identified.

At each of those memorials, the veterans proudly presented beautifully-decorated wreaths.

Wreath-laying participants were Paul Dickes, Frank Bayer, Glen Warner, Luther R. Ziegenfus, and Howard Bozzard (World War II Memorial); George F. Stocker, Charles C. Hartranft, Joseph J. Vargo, Floyd Wilensky, and Bertram Huggett (Korean War Memorial); Stephen S. Hansut, R. Bruce Reiner, Robert Solt, Steve Vlossak, Sr., and Robert Graver (Vietnam War Memorial); Joseph J. Drozd, Herbert L. Green, Richard Steigerwalt, and Willard Moyer (Tomb of the Unknowns); and Edward Chawojsky, Chris Olivia, Robert A. Scherer, Jr., Delano Swartz, and Willard Meinhart (Marine Memorial).

The final leg of the journey was a visit to the Pentagon Memorial, which was arranged through Major Gen. Rhett Hernandez of Palmerton.

The permanent outdoor memorial was created in homage to the 184 people killed in the building and on American Airlines Flight 77 in the 9-11 attacks.

To honor the victims, 184 illuminated benches have been arranged according to the victims' ages, from 3 to 71, in a landscaped 1.93-acre. Each bench is engraved with the name of a victim.

The benches representing the victims that were inside the Pentagon are arranged so those reading the names will face the Pentagon's south facade, where the plane hit; benches dedicated to victims aboard the plane are arranged so that those reading the engraved name will be facing skyward along the path the plane traveled.

Hernandez told the crowd it was an honor to host them, as he quipped that their visit was extra special because he's from Palmerton.

"A special thanks to Dick (Nothstein)," Hernandez said. "Today is only possible because of him."

Hansut, a resident of Palmerton and a veteran of the Vietnam War, said the trip gave him a "good feeling."

"Some of it's moving, and history you'll never see again," Hansut said. "It's a good feeling; I did my part, now somebody rewarded me for my efforts."

Hansut said the visit to the Arlington Cemetery stuck out most in his mind.

"This was great," he said. "I never dreamed of being able to do this."

Kevin O' Donnell, a resident of Summit Hill who served with the United States Army from 1970-76 in Europe, said his first trip to the war memorials was unforgettable.

"It was enjoyable, enlightening," O'Donnell said. "I'd come back."

O'Donnell said the World War II Memorial was special because it was "original."

"I got to see Washington, D.C. for the first time, as well as visit the Pentagon," he said. "It's about realizing civilians lost their lives over acts of terrorism."

From the Pentagon, the veterans boarded their buses and began the ride home. A short while later, they were treated to a dinner, compliments of the Nothsteins at Old Country Buffet in York.

Afterward, one veteran said the meal was a great ending to a wonderful day.

As the buses came to rest at their respective drop-off points, Nothstein reiterated how thankful he was to all those who fought for our freedom.

"We want to serve those who served," Nothstein said. "The purpose of this day is to thank you, thank you, thank you, for serving our country."

At that, the veterans returned the favor and thanked the Nothsteins for their generosity.

While it's never wise to judge a book by its cover, the prideful looks on their faces about said it all.

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