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|Whirlwind Washington tour delights group|
A group of Northeast Louisiana World War II veterans were treated to a one-day siege of the monuments in the Nation's Capitol last week that brought back memories of military precision and honor and left them with feelings of gratitude.
"It was fun, fun," said Elmer Lolley.
"There couldn't be anybody who wasn't tickled with the reception we got everywhere we went," said Ed Lee.
Both are Winnsboro residents and Army veterans who joined the 188 people on a USA Airlines large jet for the two-hour trip from Shreveport to the Washington area last Saturday.
The group, which also included a group of Richland Parish veterans, traveled to Shreveport on Friday and stayed overnight as guests of trip sponsors.
Northeast Louisiana politicians Sen. Neil Riser, Columbia, Reps. Noble Ellington, Winnsboro and Francis Thompson, Delhi contributed to the trip and raised funds from several regional banks help pay for overnight costs while Steve Pylant and Charles McDonald, sheriffs of Franklin and Richland Parishes, respectively, provided ground transportation.
Other locals on the trip include: Bobby Collins, the Veterans Affairs Officer for Franklin and Richland Parishes, Gordon Hughs, Ralph Cooper, Leo Cheek, Fahy Hodge and Ganard Stump, all veterans and guardians Ellington and Lamar Johnson. Thompson and Riser made the trip as well.
Financial institutions contributing to the trip included: Homeland Federal Savings and Columbia Bank in Caldwell Parish; Winnsboro State Bank and Franklin State Bank, both in Winnsboro and Cross Keys Bank, Regions Bank, Guaranty Bank, Commercial Capital Bank, Richland State Bank and Bancor South in Richland Parish.
"It was well-planned, a super day and I don't know of anything that could have been changed," said Collins.
The group was honored by a Shreveport crowd both when leaving and returning and individuals received a special American Flag from the Rep. Rodney Alexander's office on arrival back in Louisiana.
Honor guards and band music greeted the veterans, who ranged in age from 83 to 94. Also in the group was a Gold Star Mother, the mother of a deceased World War II veteran, according to Collins.
Former Sen. Bob Dole, a one-time presidential candidate from Iowa and a wounded veteran of World War II, greeted the group at one point.
The traveled in busses with police escort throughout most of the trip. A major goal of the trip, sponsored by Louisiana Honor Air, was to allow veterans to see the monument to World War II. The sponsoring organization tries to arrange free transportation for aging vets to see the memorial on the Washington Mall.
"It was the most traveling I've done in one day," said Lolley, who was impressed with the size and speed of the jumbo-sized aircraft which ferried the group between the state and the national capitol.
The viewing itinerary included the World War II memorial, Korea and Vietman Memorials, the Marine Memorial and Arlington Cemetery.
Both Lee and Lolley found the ceremony of changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery as a moving experience.
"It was probably the most impressive," said Lolley and Lee agreed.
"We had a boy named Tim from Denham Srings who was our guide," recalled Lolley. The guide was a member of the honor guard, a highly selective corps of elete members picked for military bearing and precision.
Lee, who at 91 was one of the elder members of the traveling group, was a last minute addition to the trip roster.
"I had a conflict," he said of early plans to see the monuments, "and was off the list until I got a call at the last minute. I'm sure I was the last one from Franklin Parish on the list."
Lee and Lolley had some similar war time experiences. Both had attended Louisiana State University and participated in ROTC programs before entering the U. S. Army, where each were initially assigned to Armored Divisions.
Both men were quick to assign their thanks while reliving the trip.
"We really need to express our appreciation to those who organized the trip," said Lolley with Lee adding: "We couldn't have gotten better treatment."