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Washington County veterans get to see monument to their war

'I feel like I'm walking around with a bunch of heroes'

'I feel like I'm walking around with a bunch of heroes'

October 23, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

View the Veterans Trip slideshow

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Freedom might not be free, but, for about 60 veterans on Wednesday, getting an up-close look at it was.

Thanks to two local governments and other sponsors, two busloads of Washington County veterans went to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial, reviving memories of their youth.

The visit was the second that the City of Hagerstown organized this year, sparked by an idea by Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, whose father was a WWII veteran.

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The first trip, in the spring, was for about 40 veterans who live in the city.

For the second trip, veterans on a waiting list for the first trip got to go. Most or all reside in the county, outside the city.

One bus was planned, but because of the strong interest, a second bus was added.

Bob Johnston, 85, who lives outside Hagerstown, said that when the city called to offer him a spot on Tuesday's trip, "I was elated."

Johnston and Charles Kelley, 82, of Clear Spring, were among many veterans seeing the memorial for the first time.

"It's unbelievable," Kelley said. "It's fantastic."

"I knew that he'd jump at the chance to go," said his wife, Carolee Kelley.

"This is probably the best thing that I've done since I've been in the city," Metzner said.

Conservit Inc. - a scrap-metal business whose president, Jack Metzner, is Lewis Metzner's brother - paid for one bus. Washington County government paid for the other bus.

McDonald's and the county provided breakfast, and Callas Contractors and the county covered the cost of a Phillips Seafood lunch buffet, said Karen Giffin, Hagerstown's community affairs director.

The city and other sponsors contributed in a few ways, such as goodie bags with free disposable cameras.

The group also stopped at the United States Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts a Pulitzer-Prize-winning photo of Marines and one sailor raising the American flag at Iwo Jima.

Lewis Metzner said every veteran in the city and county who asked to see the World War II Memorial now has been able to go.

He told the group at lunch that the city might plan other trips to Washington, D.C., monuments, such as the memorials to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and veterans of the Korean War.

The World War II Memorial, a national park, sits between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. It was dedicated in 2004.

As dozens of graying Washington County veterans admired the memorial - some with help from canes or wheelchairs - Jack Metzner admired the veterans.

"I feel like I'm walking around with a bunch of heroes," he said.

Coming Sunday: Meet some of the veterans on the trip

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