Some 40 local veterans of the Korean War and Vietnam era were recently treated to a “thank you” trip to Washington, D.C. The “Veterans Roll to Washington” bus tour was organized by Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) and funded by many area businesses and benefactors, ensuring that those who served our country could participate at no cost.
“Many of our veterans had never been to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials, monuments and other sites in which we, as Americans, feel so much pride,” said Paul T. Crowley, GLSS’ chief executive officer.
The excursion was planned by an organizing committee that included Saugus residents Joseph Dennis Gould, a Vietnam-era veteran and chairman of the 2015 North Shore Veterans’ Appreciation Parade, and veteran Dave Nelson; and Paul Crowley, Ken Halkin, Marilyn Long, Stacey Minchello and Maureen Teal of GLSS. Teal served as project manager and GLSS was responsible for the fundraising.
The trip, May 19-22, included a wreath-laying ceremony with a Marine honor guard at the Vietnam Memorial, a flag ceremony at the Korean Veterans War Memorial and a private tour of Arlington National Cemetery with a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as other memorials and historic sites, including the Washington Monument.
“Most of the veterans are 70, 80 years old and older,” said trip participant Roger Comeau of Lynn, who served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962. “I spent six months in Georgia and the rest in Germany. Many of these gentlemen were in the thick of it. I was honored to travel with these guys.”
Comeau said eighth-grade kids on a separate tour shook hands with the local veterans at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “It brought tears to the eyes of some of the guys,” said Comeau.
“Everyone couldn’t do enough for us. Stacey (Minchello) and Maureen (Teal) of GLSS, the registered nurse on the bus (Rosemary Durant, nurse manager of GLSS’ home care department) went out of their way to make sure we were well taken care of,” added Comeau. “Everything was paid for. The bus, the hotel, food, everything. What a community Lynn is. If something happens or if something is needed, the people of Lynn always rally behind it.”
“Many veterans stated that they wanted to be part of the trip to hopefully achieve a sense of closure, to honor their own and the service of many who did not come home, and to just simply be with and experience this with other veterans,” said Minchello, director of the Lynn Senior Center.
Staff from General Electric’s Washington, D.C., office lent a hand leading up to and during the trip, including having flags flown over the Capitol building in honor of our local veterans, which were presented to attendees at the trip’s conclusion.
Comeau said a retired military officer who worked for GE in D.C. approached the local group at Arlington National Cemetery and said “You’re from Lynn. Lynn GE. Home of the world’s best helicopter engines and jet engines.”
The group was housed at The Presidential Inn at Andrews Air Force Base. They wore matching polo shirts: red one day, blue the next, throughout the trip.
The veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C., included Lynners Martin Robichaud, Robert Follis Jr., William Hrubes, Domenic Cataldo, Valerie Dillard, Neal LaFleur, Donald Fahey, Duncan Maitland, Robert G. Lennon, James M. Wrynn, Paul Seaman, Neil Curran, William Wagner, Thomas O’Toole, Americo Irrizarry, Herbert French and Comeau.
Also on the trip were veterans Joseph E. Dion, Joseph Dennis Gould, John E. Roberts, Michael Arsenault and George M. Gray of Saugus; Howard M. Vatcher and Arthur Segaloff of Swampscott; Robert G. Hunt and Roger Paladeau of Nahant; Ed Koollian of Lynnfield; Anthony Vassallo of Peabody; Edward Reardon of Revere; James F. Guilfoyle Jr., Bruce Dobson and John Plunkett of Winthrop; Raymond Dugan of Reading; and Phillip Walsh of New Hampshire.
Donors included DiVirgilio Financial Group, Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, General Electric, GLSS, Wheelabrator Technologies, A. James Lynch Insurance (in memory of A. James Lynch, WWII Navy veteran), Associated Home Care, Scangas Realty Trust, Dandreo Brothers Construction, Meninno Construction Co., National Grid, Old Neighborhood Foods, Saugus VFW Post 2346, Camp Lion of Lynn, Paul T. Crowley, Thomas Kiley, James F. Marshall (in memory of James Phipps Sr., WWII Navy veteran), North Shore Elder Services, Ocean Transportation, RiverWorks Credit Union, Saugus American Legion Post 210, Solimine Funeral Homes, local residents and organizations, and an anonymous donor in honor of classmates who served, with love and respect.
This trip followed a highly successful 2015 tour of D.C. for World War II veterans. GLSS will plan a similar trip for 2021.