Strangers on D.C. trip share common bond


By Melanie Speicher - mspeicher@aimmedianetwork.com



Mike Bennett, co-chairman of the Shelby County Vets to D.C. leads the salute at the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19, after a ceremony was held honoring the veterans service and the Shelby Count residents who lost their lives in the war.

Mike Bennett, co-chairman of the Shelby County Vets to D.C. leads the salute at the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19, after a ceremony was held honoring the veterans service and the Shelby Count residents who lost their lives in the war.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

World War II veteran George Monnier and Korean War veteran Ralph Granger get ready to take the wreath from a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as Dick Hougen, Vietnam War veteran and Del Yoho, World War II veteran, look on. The four were part of the wreath-laying ceremony Saturday, Sept. 19.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Army Specialist Isaac Redmond, of Gainesville, Fla., is surrounded by the veterans from Shelby County at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Redmond is one of the guards who protects the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Several veterans on the Shelby County Vets to D.C. trip look for names on the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Shelby County Vets to D.C. watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

The newest memorial in Washington, D.C., the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, was one of the stops on the tour Saturday, Sept. 19.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

World War II veteran George Monnier receives a hug from a Belgium citizen at the World War II Memorial. Monnier was stationed in Belgium and Holland during the war and he received a thank you hug for helping to liberate the countries.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Gary Gennis talks to a U.S. Marine following a ceremony in which a Marine was promoted to lieutenant colonel. The ceremony was held at the Marine Memorial.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

The Shelby County Vets to D.C. pose for a group photo in front of the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19.


Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — They were strangers less than a week ago. Now the 40 veterans who made their way to Washington, D.C., have stories to share and a common link: They all served their countries.

Jack Jones, a 1965 graduate of Sidney High School, currently lives in Wisconsin. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army and served during the Vietnam War. He was asked by his nephew, John Bertsch, owner of Detailed Machining, if he’d like to go on the trip, Bertsch’s company sponsored two veterans on the trip.

“Where I live in Wisconsin, they are taking World War II veterans,” said Jones. “I thought it would be nice to go with the guys I got drafted with.”

Jones said he spent exactly one year in Vietnam and two years in Europe. He was a member of the Army Security Agency.

“I got drafted and when I went to see the recruiter at the post office, he said, ‘What a deal I have for you.’”

He was sent to Massachusetts for training and dealt with radio and electronic equipment.

“All the radios were classified then,” he said. With the equipment, the soldiers were able to intercept radio signals from the enemy.

“We could triangulate where the radio was and call in bomb strikes,” said Jones. “We were an early version of GPS spy training.”

Jones said the trip was wonderful.

“I was able to free myself of a few demons that have been haunting me for the last 40 years,” said Jones, “and I am grateful for that. It was very emotional and the hardest part was I knew some of the guys on the wall. Then you look at all the other names and there were thousands of GIs there. We looked up Bob Gold’s name. He had graduated with us (Jones and Duane Mullen, a volunteer on the trip).”

When he’s in Wisconsin, he wears his hat which says Army Security Agency.

“A lot of people will thank me for my service,” he said. “My kids are proud of me for my service.”

Some ghosts were laid to rest for Butch Bergman, of Fort Loramie.

“It was a great trip,” said Bergman. “It’s something I should have done years ago. My kids kept on me and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to do this.’ “

Bergman said he had heart surgery this past year and realized “there were a couple of things I needed to do.”

He said the best part of the trip was the emotional send-off in Sidney Friday morning.

“I’m not an emotional person, but it made a tear in my eye before we left Sidney,” said Bergman, “It would have been nice if it had been that way 48 years ago. I think it was more heartfelt today than it would have been 48 years ago.

“The younger generation today looks at things differently than they did back then,” he said.

Army veteran Bob Reisinger, of Sidney, said his favorite part of the trip was also the send-off in Sidney.

“I had tears in my eyes,” he said, “to see the kids out there waving. I was surprised at the number of people out there. It made me feel so good.”

Reisinger said the visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was his favorite part of the trip to D.C.

“The tomb was awesome,” he said. “It was really interesting what we learned about the shifts they work. The fact that nine of 10 don’t make it was a surprise to me.”

Air Force veteran Roger Baker, of Sidney, served during the Vietnam War from 1963-76. He was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska,

“The highlight of the trip was Arlington and the changing of the guard,” said Jones, who was accompanied by Audrey Thompson, of Lima. “The trip was outstanding informative and exceptional planning went into it.”

Thompson said before the trip, the word patriotism was used in quotes.

“I was exposed to what’s going on to honor that word and it blows your mind,” said Thompson. “I was very impressed with the atmosphere here.”

Baker said the trip was an “once-in-a-lifetime trip” as “we would never have been able to drive there.”

He said he was very impressed with the volunteers on the trip.

“How many times do you find a volunteer who has to pay $250 to volunteer?” asked Baker.

Each volunteer and caregiver on the trip pays $250. The veteran’s trip is free.

During a social gathering Saturday night after returning to the hotel, the veterans and their caregivers shared what they had enjoyed about the day. Several commented how much it meant to them to have young people and children come up, shake their hands, and thank them for serving their country.

“I got to meet a man with bionic legs,” said Buddy Terry.

The veteran, said Terry, had lost his legs five years ago, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2010, in an explosion in Afghanistan.

“He was serving as a caregiver for a World War II veteran,” said Terry. “He shook my hand and thanked me for my service.

Gary Gennis shared that he had met two girls and they took his picture in front of the Vietnam Wall.

“I went to the Korean Memorial and ran into them again.”

He started to talking to them and learned they were both in the Air Force and were stationed at Langley. Gennis said he was stationed at Langley when he was in the service.

“They both outranked me,” said Gennis. “They had been in 15-16 years and they looked like kids.”

Roy Jones, who served in both the Army and Navy, said the trip has helped renew his faith in people.

“There are still good people in the world,” said Jones.

He said the discipline of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier impressed him,

“The discipline of the young men impressed me,” said Jones. “The soldier who played taps is an E6 or staff sergeant. I thanked him and he said, ‘I should be thanking you.’

“I don’t have the words to express my feelings. People came up to me to shake my hands. I met Mrs. (Elizabeth) Dole and she’s the most famous person I’ve ever met.”

Leah Shreves, who traveled with her dad, Buddy Taylor, to D.C., said she was impressed by what happened during the ceremony at the Vietnam Wall.

“So many other people were taking pictures,” she said. “They were talking in so many different languages.”

Mike Bennett, co-chairman of the Shelby County Vets to D.C. leads the salute at the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19, after a ceremony was held honoring the veterans service and the Shelby Count residents who lost their lives in the war.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_WallSalute.jpgMike Bennett, co-chairman of the Shelby County Vets to D.C. leads the salute at the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19, after a ceremony was held honoring the veterans service and the Shelby Count residents who lost their lives in the war. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

World War II veteran George Monnier and Korean War veteran Ralph Granger get ready to take the wreath from a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as Dick Hougen, Vietnam War veteran and Del Yoho, World War II veteran, look on. The four were part of the wreath-laying ceremony Saturday, Sept. 19.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_wreath.jpgWorld War II veteran George Monnier and Korean War veteran Ralph Granger get ready to take the wreath from a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as Dick Hougen, Vietnam War veteran and Del Yoho, World War II veteran, look on. The four were part of the wreath-laying ceremony Saturday, Sept. 19. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Army Specialist Isaac Redmond, of Gainesville, Fla., is surrounded by the veterans from Shelby County at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Redmond is one of the guards who protects the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_tombguard.jpgArmy Specialist Isaac Redmond, of Gainesville, Fla., is surrounded by the veterans from Shelby County at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Redmond is one of the guards who protects the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Several veterans on the Shelby County Vets to D.C. trip look for names on the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_Wallnew.jpgSeveral veterans on the Shelby County Vets to D.C. trip look for names on the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Shelby County Vets to D.C. watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_changingguard.jpgShelby County Vets to D.C. watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

The newest memorial in Washington, D.C., the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, was one of the stops on the tour Saturday, Sept. 19.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_DAVforLife.jpgThe newest memorial in Washington, D.C., the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, was one of the stops on the tour Saturday, Sept. 19. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

World War II veteran George Monnier receives a hug from a Belgium citizen at the World War II Memorial. Monnier was stationed in Belgium and Holland during the war and he received a thank you hug for helping to liberate the countries.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_MonnierHolland.jpgWorld War II veteran George Monnier receives a hug from a Belgium citizen at the World War II Memorial. Monnier was stationed in Belgium and Holland during the war and he received a thank you hug for helping to liberate the countries. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

Gary Gennis talks to a U.S. Marine following a ceremony in which a Marine was promoted to lieutenant colonel. The ceremony was held at the Marine Memorial.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_Gary-Gennis.jpgGary Gennis talks to a U.S. Marine following a ceremony in which a Marine was promoted to lieutenant colonel. The ceremony was held at the Marine Memorial. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_Dickgreatgrandson.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_KoreaWreath.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_Marines.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_NavyMemorial.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_NavyVeterans.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_wreathsalute.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_WWIIwreath.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_DoleMonnier.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_AirForceVeterans.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

The Shelby County Vets to D.C. pose for a group photo in front of the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_Group.jpgThe Shelby County Vets to D.C. pose for a group photo in front of the Vietnam Wall Saturday, Sept. 19. Melanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2015/09/web1_WallWreath.jpgMelanie Speicher | Sidney Daily News

By Melanie Speicher

mspeicher@aimmedianetwork.com

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.