More than 200 vets and their spouses have been on the multiple-day trip, which allows them to share their stories of service with teeangers. Most of the participants are from the Vietnam War era, but other vets have been from World War II and served during Operation Desert Storm.
“As we get on the bus, I tell them we leave as acquaintances, but we’ll come back as family,” said Norwalk resident Thom Price, who coordinates the trip. “The trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community.”
The Huron County Honor Trip takes about 45 vets each year.
The upcoming event takes place Oct. 12 through 14. The group will visit the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Korean War and American Veterans Disabled for Life memorials in Washington.
“Then we eat lunch at the Reagan Trade Center,” Price said. “We have Vietnam vets who have not seen the wall and that’s a big thing.”
During one trip, a veteran had to take some time to gain his composure until he was ready to look at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.
“He had friends on there,” said Price, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1979 through 1989.
During an early trip, Price misunderstood what a Vietnam vet said when he mentioned being reunited with people he hadn’t seen since 1968.
“I was thinking he had people who were going to met him there; they were on the wall,” he added.
The veterans and students also will lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“That’s the last thing we do in D.C.,” Price said.
This is the first time St. Paul students have been invited to attend with those from NHS. Science teacher Nate Whaley again will choose students from NHS while theology teacher Christine Galati will select those from St. Paul.
“We will take eight students — four and four,” Price said.
Students from New London High School participated in last year’s trip.
“New London would love to go again,” Price said.
Whaley said NHS students have to apply and “grades and attendance are the first cut.” Also taken into consideration are staff recommendations and an essay. Last year, students wrote about the importance of veterans. Whaley was on active duty for the U.S. Army for four years and served in the Army Reserves for an additional year.
“Everyone he has picked has been fantastic,” Price said.
Whaley, when asked what qualities he looks for in students, said they should have “good overall character,” are willing to help the veterans as well as have a willingness to listen and talk to the vets.
“They should want to be there, not just get out of school,” he added.
While the students have to pay for the trip, Whaley said he attempts to find businesses to sponsor the trip. Last year, that meant the students paid for about half of the cost.
Whaley and Price have seen veterans transformed for the better after going to the memorials.
“One was able to talk to his family for the first time,” Whaley said, referring to the man’s military experience.