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Forever Young Senior Veterans sponsored a visit to Washington, D.C. Participants included Major Wooten, front from left, U.S. Army, and Sherwin Callander, U.S. Navy, who are World War II veterans, and Barry Sammet, back from left, and Tom McKinney, U.S. Marine Corps veterans of Vietnam War. CONTRIBUTED

Madison veterans visit Washington, D.C. sites

MADISON – Madison veterans recently toured the landmarks and historic sites of Washington D.C. in a trip that Forever Young Senior Veterans arranged.   

Several Alabama veterans and volunteers departed Huntsville International Airport on Oct. 19 en route to Atlanta. “The group met up with other veterans and volunteers to form a group of 50 people, including 32 veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam,” Tom McKinney said. “The group was part of the Forever Young Senior Veterans organization.”

McKinney is a U.S. Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He actively serves with Madison American Legion, Post 229.

Their itinerary included monuments on the National Mall; World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials; Lincoln Memorial; and Martin Luther King Memorial. They visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va.

During a bus tour, the veterans saw the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Navy Memorial, White House, Embassy Row and Ford’s Theater. The group then visited Arlington National Cemetery for the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Their tour included the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of American History.

The Vietnam Wall and Arlington Cemetery were among sites that caused emotional reflection.

“Viewing the historic sites of D.C. as a group was especially rewarding,” McKinney said. “There were laughs, tears and quiet reflection as the group toured the various historic sites in Washington. Four of the veterans, including Major Wooten of Madison, were especially honored by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

Each evening, the group gathered to socialize. “Sharing of experiences, serious and humorous, was one of the many highlights of the trip. A clear bond of friendship and camaraderie grew among the veterans, regardless of the branch of service or conflict experienced,” McKinney said.

“For Vietnam veterans, there was an opportunity to reassess their role in an unpopular war and to feel a genuine statement of ‘Welcome Home,'” he said.

During dinner/dancing on the tour’s last night, veterans ranging from 65 to 101 years old claimed the dance floor and displayed their energetic moves. “A band member was heard saying, ‘This is the best group we have ever played for,'” McKinney said.

Diane Hight of Memphis, Tenn. founded Forever Young Senior Veterans in 2006. The organization provides trips and wish fulfillment to veterans 65 years old and older. Promoting honor and healing, the organization sponsors trips to destinations where veterans fought or to other historic sites like Washington D.C. An Alabama chapter of Forever Young Senior Veterans was formed a few years ago.

For more information, visit foreveryoungvets.org/alabama.

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