Area veterans leave for D.C. 'Honor Tour'

Friday, June 22, 2007
Eddie Warren saluted the color guard while the Jackson Municipal Band played "The Star-Spangled Banner" early Thursday during a send-off for 31 World War II veterans from the region who are spending the weekend in the nation's capital. (Kit Doyle)

The Jackson Municipal Band and a color guard joined family and community members to give local veterans of World War II a warm send-off Thursday before they embarked on a tour of Washington, D.C.

Tour leader Rob Callahan of Marble Hill, Mo., and 31 veterans boarded a tour bus at First Midwest Bank in Jackson to catch a flight in St. Louis. Callahan organized the all-expenses-paid "Honor Tour" for veterans to view the National WWII Memorial.

The band played "God Bless America" as the veterans saluted the flag borne by the color guard of the 1140th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company.

Staff Sgt. David Hudson of the color guard said he was proud to participate in the send-off. "If they didn't do what they did, we wouldn't be here today," Hudson said.

Jackson Municipal Band leader Nick Leist said he talked with Callahan about performing at the send-off. He opened up the opportunity to the band, expecting only a few to volunteer for the early morning concert. But more than 20 band members came to play.

Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr was also on hand to thank the veterans for their service before they departed.

"I think it's such a wonderful opportunity for all the men and women who gave up so much for our country," she said. "Rob told me they'd be coming through town, and I told him I'd be delighted to come out and see them off."

After they arrive in Washington, the veterans will take a night driving tour, viewing the Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the Pentagon and the White House among other sites.

On Friday the veterans will visit the World War II memorial, and tour the U.S. Capitol Building and Arlington National Cemetery.

The veterans will visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and the Air Force Memorial and tour the National Air and Space Museum on Saturday before catching a plane back to St. Louis.

Callahan said donations from local residents and businesses paid for all veterans' expenses, including admittance to the museums and all meals.

Ray Plummer, who served as an airman on the original USS Enterprise aircraft carrier from 1942 to 1946, said he was most excited about viewing the Enola Gay bomber at the National Space and Air Museum. The Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Plummer said he was thrilled to visit Washington, D.C., and the monuments and memorials there.

"I've flown over Washington, D.C., about 10 times, but I've never gotten down there," Plummer said.

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