On Tuesday, Sept. 16, four residents at The Kenwood woke up bright and early for what would be a short trip to Washington D.C., taking nothing with them but memories from a long time ago.
Stanley Berman, Bernie Dave, Art Fusaro and Bill Turner awoke around 4 a.m. on Sept. 16 and headed to the airport for a one-day tour of the nation’s capital as part of the Honor Flight – Tri-State program. The organization hosts five charter flights from Cincinnati to Washington D.C. between April and October every year. The program is exclusively for World War II and Korean War veterans to see their memorials – at no cost to them. Joining the approximately 70 veterans was a guardian – often times a family member and sometimes a complete stranger.
So, off they went after a welcome reception and ceremony at the Cincinnati airport; men who fought as one for their country, but were complete strangers to one another. (Well, except for The Kenwood residents, of course, all four of whom are part of our Veterans Club.)
Their first stop was the Iwo Jima Memorial. Next, the group witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier inside Arlington National Cemetery – which Stanley, Bernie and Art all agreed was the most impressive, and quite possibly the most emotional part of the trip. Stops followed at the Air Force Memorial and the World War II Memorial, where an American flag was placed over the Ohio column during a ceremony. From there, the group also saw the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and finally, the Lincoln Memorial. XX hours after it began, the veterans’ trip had come to a close… but not before they received a warm welcome from supporters at the Cincinnati airport.
Each of the four men had been to Washington D.C. before, most of them seeing the war memorials during their previous trips. But this venture to witness the monuments and statues erected in honor of those who bravely fought for our country, alongside fellow veterans, was particularly special for them.
“The other veterans we all went with, there seemed to be certain camaraderie and fellowship of people who all had similar thinking and feelings that we had. It’s amazing talking to some of the other people about some of the experiences we shared. I ran into one man who served in the division that relieved us during the war before we crossed the Rhine River (into Germany). We were loaded up to go and their division relieved us and we were pulled back. It was interesting,” said Bernie Dave.
Stanley Berman added, “To see and witness how grateful people are for us was special. I never thought about it before. We served our time and that was it. And now, these people are so grateful and so appreciative – and they’re very sincere about it.”
Each of the men also enjoyed speaking with fellow participant Buddy LaRosa, owner of the Cincinnati-famous LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria and a Korean War veteran.
For the guardians, some of whom were sons accompanying their fathers, this trip was equally as special for them.
Lenny Dave, Bernie’s son, said, “As a guardian, it was incredible watching the group of veterans arrive at the airport in the morning as individuals. And as the day progressed, they all just melded into one group. There’s a group photograph that was taken toward the end of the day, and it’s just like ‘This is us.’”
Gregg Fusaro, Art’s son, echoed these sentiments and elaborated, “The number of people, more than 300 people from the community gathering at the airport when we all returned home to show their appreciation for our fathers’ service, that’s what really makes this worthwhile.”
For more information on the Honor Flight – Tri-State program, visit http://www.honorflighttristate.org.