Community members are invited out to support a contingent of local heroes Friday morning, Sept. 23, as the Logan County Vets to D.C. leaves Bellefontaine, bound for the nation’s capital with 46 distinguished veteran guests, who will have the chance to see their memorials for the first time.
Among their ranks are two Korean War veterans and the remaining veterans served in the Vietnam War era. The trip is the second one taken by the organization this year (with veterans on board for their first time though), following the cancellation of trips in both 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A grand send-off is planned for the retired military service members. The veterans and their traveling companions will be treated to breakfast and a ceremony Friday at the Logan County Fairgrounds, and then will depart the fairgrounds promptly at 8 a.m.
The charter buses will travel west onto Lake Avenue and then proceed northbound onto Main Street to U.S. Route 33.
Organizer Scott Stewart encouraged area residents, organizations and business representatives to stop out along the downtown area shortly before 8 a.m. so that they can show their support, noting that this potentially could be one of the last trips that the group takes.
“We would love to see as many people as we can lining the departure route waving or holding flags, clapping or even holding signs of support for our veterans as the buses leave from the Logan County,” Stewart said.
“It means so much to our veterans to see all of the support from our community as they leave on a weekend trip to Washington, D.C. That’s a huge deal to them; it can be a tear-jerker for our veterans.”
Stewart said it’s also a special sight along U.S. 33 after they leave Bellefontaine, with first responders from other areas waving flags from U.S. 33 overpasses until they reach Columbus.
Logan County Vets to D.C. trips began in 2016, and have continued annually through 2019 prior to the pandemic. This September venture is the sixth trip for the group.
Throughout course of the weekend travels, Stewart has observed the connection that develops among attendees, from the time spent on the tour bus, visiting the sites in D.C. and reminiscing during dinners on the trip.
“Some have seen combat and others have not, but they’ve all got this bond because of what they’ve been through and the sacrifices they’ve made. We see instant friendships develop, and I’ve been so privileged to say many of the veterans have become my fast friends as well,” he previously said.
Between traveling companions and volunteers, approximately 112 people will be attending this trip. The veterans attend free of charge through the many generous donors in the community, and traveling companions and volunteers pay their way to visit D.C.
“The community has been behind us from day one, and it has been incredible to see all of that support continue to this day; we are very grateful,” Stewart said.
“We have so much participation from all over, from high school football teams helping load luggage, to 4-H members who recently made quilts for the veterans, and so many volunteers behind the scenes.
Also for Friday’s send-off, other area veterans are invited to participate by riding in the military truck. They are asked to come to the Logan County Fairgrounds prior to the 8 a.m. send-off.
Local first responders also assist in the festivities Friday, along with a motorcycle escort. Any interested motorcyclists are invited to stop out to the fairgrounds infield as well to participate.
The contingent is expected to arrive back in Bellefontaine at the Logan County Fairgrounds at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, for individuals who would like to welcome them back home.
As far as future trips, Stewart said there is a list of nine veterans would be interested in attending, and a future trek would depend on having additional veteran attendees to see their war memorials. He invited any interested individuals to contact him at (937) 407-6766.
“If it’s time to stop, we will, but if we have more interest, it’s possible we could go to D.C. again.
“If our trips do come to an end, our volunteer group will not disband. We have other plans for dinners and outreach projects to serve our local veterans.”