Editor’s note: This is the third part of a three-part series about the Shelby County Vets to D.C. Committtee and their volunteers.
SIDNEY — Eleven trips and hundreds of memories. The volunteers with the Shelby County Vets to D.C. have their own memories from the trips where the veterans were able to see their memorials in Washington, D.C.
For many of the volunteers, the name Jim Barton brings a smile to their faces. Barton went on the first trip as a World War II veterans. After that, he volunteered on each trip until he died in 2014.
“Our favorite memories during the time my wife, Diana, and myself were volunteers for many trips with the Shelby County Vets To D.C. had to do with Jim Barton, another volunteer,” said Bob Wyen.
“We have many fantastic men and women who volunteered for the Vets To D.C. program and we think highly of each and everyone of them but we worked with Jim at Foodtown passing out applications and collecting donations. While on the committee we got to know him very well,” Wyen continued.
“We went on the vets trips together several times and, though he was in his 80’s, he never slowed down. He loved volunteering and going on the trips as you could tell by his smile that never seemed to fade. He loved talking to people and was never short of words. Though small in physical stature he made up for it with his contagious enthusiasm and warm personality. We had many good times working together with Jim.
“After he returned from one of the trips, he came up to us and enthusiastically told us that while he was at the WWII monument a French lady came up to him talking so fast and also in French that Jim couldn’t understand her. Then her daughter came up, who could speak English, and explained to him that her mother was thanking him for freeing her town from the Nazi forces when she was a young girl. He said the mother than gave him a kiss! He told us that was the first time in his life he had a French kiss. What a man! But that was Jim, very common with a simple, easy going life style.
“We were good friends and then on top of all this our grandson, Craig (Berning), was a volunteer on one of the trips and roomed with Jim. They also became very good friends and he made a big impression on Craig too. Jim wasn’t rich with material things but extremely wealthy in a wonderful attitude and character.
“On June 19, 2014, Jim Barton, passed away at home peacefully. Craig came home from Ohio State to attend the funeral service and was asked to be one of the pallbearers to carry his friend to Church. What a honor! Thanks Jim for showing us all what life was really all about,” said the Wyens. “The neat thing is all the people that helped with the Vets To D.C. program were like Jim, going over and above whatever it took to make sure our veterans had a wonderful trip. Thank you all for allowing us to be a small part of that program.”
Roger Lentz serves as the treasurer for the Shelby County Vets to D.C. committee.
“The ‘Vets to DC’ endeavor has been an admirable quest to acknowledge our brave men and women’s selfless courage, and their commitment and devotion to duty to defend our precious freedom. For their dedication and efforts, we are eternally grateful,” said Lentz. “It has been a very rewarding and fulfilling experience to assist with the Shelby County Veterans to DC Committee and to honor our WW II, Korean and Viet Nam Veterans. This has accorded a great opportunity and privilege, to recognize true patriots, thank them, and listen to their commitments and service experiences while they are still with us.
“Special ‘kudos’ are extended to Mr. Ray Prater, who first brought the idea of Veterans trips to Shelby County. The initial meeting of this venture was held during January of 2009 and the first trip to visit the monuments in our nation’s Capitol, scheduled during May of that year. Mr. Ed Ball, Veterans Service Officer and more recently Colonel (ret.) Michael Bennett, have chaired, in an exemplary manner, the ‘Vets to DC’ Committee. With their leadership, a total of 11 trips have been conducted that included 40 some Veterans, 20-25 caregivers (spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, etc.) and a like number of volunteers for each journey,” said Lentz.
“As treasurer of this organization, I have observed the tremendous outpouring of interest and financial support from individuals, businesses, foundations, youth and service groups, various organizations, caregivers, volunteers and veterans themselves, from previous trips. The sum total of each trip exceeded $31,000 and every excursion resulted in a surplus or “carryover” of funds for subsequent trips,” he said. “I extend sincere appreciation to the SDN for their interest, support and ‘on the spot’ reporting of our DC trips. Great job!”
Keith and Jeanie Putnam went on several of the trips. He retired from the U.S. Navy.
“There are many memories that I cherish but the most vivid one is the time that ET3 Joey Everett from Shelby County and my neighbor met us in DC and assisted us with veterans on our trip,” said Keith Putnam. “He was on active duty serving on the USS Roosevelt at the Norfolk Naval station – I invited him and he gladly came. It brought the veterans a great deal of satisfaction and pride as we all remembered that it wasn’t that long ago that we were young and serving our country just like him. What a great young man he was to volunteer and take time away to do that. It was meaningful for him as well as the vets on the trip.”
Denny and Deb Nagel also have many memories from time as volunteers on the trips.
“Deb and I were most impressed by the respect the vets have for each other. Whether it be a WWII vet talking to a Vietnam vet,or two WWII vets. They share stores and experiences as if they were side by side in the war. They all have great respect for each other and are all proud of their service to our country,” said Nagel.
“We are also extremely proud of how the community responded. All of the county schools systems wrote letters without question or hesitation and were more than happy to take part in the experience. The school principles were all open to participation and followed through to make sure the letters to the vets were completed on time. Many people donated money to our effort to make it a complete success,” he continued.
“The volunteers were like a true team. They were all on the same page with each other and all in it for the same goal, of providing the veterans with the best possible experience they could provide by saying ‘Thank you’ to them and treating them with the full respect that they deserve. These were some of the experiences we will take away from being a part of the most gradfying organization we’ve been a part of.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.