Local World War II veterans receive Honor Tour send-off

Sunday, October 17, 2010
World War II veterans made a grand entrance before an Honor Tour send-off ceremony Friday at Perryville High School. The school's football team held flags for the veterans to walk through. (Melissa Miller)

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- A group of 30 World War II veterans were given a hero's welcome Friday as their Honor Tour bus arrived in Perryville.

Some veterans had waited more than two years for a spot on the bus for the first leg of a weekend-long trip to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C.

"It's an honor and a privilege," said Rob Callahan, tour coordinator. "We are going to try our best to make this the most memorable three days of their lives."

This is the eighth Honor Tour taking veterans from Southeast Missouri to the nation's capital. More than 200 veterans have now taken part.

Without the Honor Tour, many veterans said they would never have had the opportunity to visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Margaret Kies, 90, of Cape Girardeau contributed funds for the World War II memorial after receiving a request for donations in the mail when it was being constructed. She said she never dreamed she would actually see it.

Kies was an Army nurse from 1943 to 1945, serving in Australia, where she worked at a hospital caring for soldiers wounded in the New Guinea campaign. She signed up for the Honor Tour in 2008.

"I wanted to be brave enough to go with the group," she said.

After starting the trip in Poplar Bluff, Mo., the bus stopped to pick up several more veterans in Cape Girardeau before heading to a send-off ceremony at Perryville High School.

Residents lined the streets waving flags and handmade signs as the tour bus carrying the veterans, escorted by police and a veterans honor guard on motorcycles.

They were greeted by two rows of football players creating an archway of American flags to welcome them into the high school building.

"We didn't get this kind of send-off when we went off to war in '41," said Merrel Cloud, 87, of Poplar Bluff, who is making the trip with his daughter and granddaughter.

Friday's ceremony included performances by the Perryville High School choir and jazz band as well as speeches by Callahan, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and Perryville city manager Brent Buerck.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3632

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