WASHINGTON — For the Taggart family, the Huron County Honor Trip was a three-generation experience.
Brad Taggart, of Bellevue, was on the three-day event with his daughter, Raquel, a St. Paul High School senior, and his father Bill.
“I like having Dad here. We sat down and talked about some of his military experiences and stuff — stories I’ve never heard before. We’ve discussed some of that (and I) found out some new things. I like spending time with (my) daughter of course,” said Taggart, who served in the U.S. Army from September 1990 to September 1994.
His father, who originally is from West Virginia, served in the U.S. Navy.
“I joined in ’53. I served for six months for the active reserves for boot camp and my schooling. Then I attended meetings once a month until ’55, when I went on active duty and I was on an aircraft carrier for two years — the U.S.S. Wasp, which is a smaller aircraft carrier,” he said. “We got to travel to almost halfway around the world in two years.
“I enjoyed my two years in the service on active duty there,” added Bill, who graduated from Medina High School. “I moved to Medina in 1948. … Then we moved to Bellevue in ’62.”
More than 30 veterans, their spouses and family members were on the Huron County Honor Trip. The event included tours of the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Marine Corps, Korean War, World War II, Air Force, Pentagon and American Veterans Disabled for Life memorials in and near the nation’s capital.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the generous donations of businesses and organizations in Huron County,” said U.S. veteran Thom Price, of Norwalk, who organized a large part of the trip.
It wasn’t the first trip to Washington for any of the Taggarts. Brad, a 1990 Bellevue High School graduate, visited when he was about 8 years old.
“I came here in the eighth grade,” his daughter Raquel said. “We really rushed a lot. I guess when we came, we rushed a lot and didn’t get to take everything in, so it’s nice to take the time to be able to actually take in everything and look at it. I guess when you’re older, you look at everything differently too.”
That was the case for her grandfather, who hadn’t been to Washington in decades.
“It gives (me) the chance to spend some time with my son and grandchildren … and to see all this that has built up since the last time was here, which is probably about 40 years ago,” he said. “It’s really impressive the way everything has built up here and it’s all for the better.”
The first stop on the afternoon of Oct. 12 was the hangar for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport. American Legion Post No. 177 in Fairfax, Va. hosted the veterans and students for a buffet dinner that night — complete with a color guard.
The group had lunch Saturday afternoon at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. The trip ended Sunday morning with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Bill Taggart wasn’t able to choose his favorite part of the trip. While going through the Smithsonian hangar, he pointed out many planes with which he was familiar.
“I enjoyed the whole thing, really. This has been something that I probably should have done more often and come out and see all the improvements they have made in Washington. Now you can associate it with what’s really going on,” he said.
His granddaughter’s favorite experience was walking around the D.C. area and “hearing what Grandpa had worked on.”
“I think that was probably the coolest — just talking about what he got to do,” she added.
Besides Raquel, seven other local students were on the trip. Also from St. Paul were sophomore Jackson Cook and junior Jarret Schaffer. Representing Norwalk High School were sophomores Braden Lloyd, Lochlyn Ramsey, Chanse Raymond, Cadence Scott and senior Olivia Schaffer.
Raquel enjoyed the Korean War Memorial in Washington. Statues of soldiers are placed throughout some greenery, appearing as if they are preparing to go into battle or sneak up on the enemy.
“I wish I would have been able to see it at night when (it was) all lit up,” Raquel said.
During the trip, the teenager heard about her father and grandfather’s time in the military.
“At home they don’t really talk about much. If I ask questions, they’ll answer the questions, but they just don’t sit down and talk about it. So it’s nice to experience all of this with them and then get to hear their stories along with everyone else’s too,” she said.
Her father enjoyed hearing the stories from veterans of the various branches of service. He said he realized there were similarities — no matter what decade it was.
“(We had) different paths, especially the World War II soldiers and some of the Korean (War) soldiers. More of the history is what I like listening to and then you also see, when you talk to some of the other guys, how some of your stories actually kinda combine,” Brad Taggart said.
When talking to his father, he realized they went through similar situations in the Army and Navy.
“From him in the ’50s to me in the ’90s, we had some of the same experiences. People in World War II were actually stationed in Germany where I was,” Taggart said.