WHY AN AMERICAN HERITAGE TOUR?
As the students tumbled off their bus onto the sidewalk beside the World War II Memorial in Washington DC, the P.A.C.E. Travel guide told them about the symbolism of the memorial, also reminding them to thank a veteran if they saw one. The students started moving through the memorial, and soon one of them spotted a WWII veteran standing with his grandson at the Pacific tower. Before long, a cue of students and teachers were lined up shaking this man’s hand and thanking him for his service. Soon everyone was crying.
As the group was loading back onto the bus, the veteran’s grandson came running up to the group leader. He said his grandfather, Jerry, had lost many friends in WWII, and had initially not wanted to even visit the memorial, but heeding his grandson’s urging, they had gone. Jerry had been part of the Army Medical Corps. Two weeks prior to D-Day, his unit’s job had been to collect more than 70,000 pints of blood…every last drop was used. Jerry told his grandson that encountering those students at the memorial had touched him deeply. As he put it, “It made it all worth it.”
American Heritage Tours helps teach the next generation to honor those who have gone before them, to acknowledge the heritage they have been given, and has a lasting impact that bridges generations!
“Thank you for your service, …and Welcome Home.”
These are words I have grown up hearing my dad, Greg, say as part of his challenge to youth and chaperones on trips to Washington, DC. The charge, to the students in particular, is that whenever they meet a veteran, to thank them for their service; but especially with Vietnam veterans, to add “welcome home.” He reminds the students the scars of war are lasting, but the emotional scars caused by a country that rejected its returning service members are scars that run even deeper.
I recently met a man in a hotel lobby in Oklahoma. I saw his veteran’s hat – noting he had served in Vietnam. I walked up to him and introduced myself. His name was Jim, a motorcoach driver tuckered out at the end of a long day. Not wanting to keep him long, I reached out to shake his hand, looked him in the eye, and said, “Jim, I like your hat. Thank you for your service – and welcome home.” The effect was instant. His tired eyes filled with tears, his grip on my hand tightened, and he gave me a simple nod of thanks.
Just as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall is meant to reflect back the image of those who have come to view it, knowing our great heritage as a nation allows us to not only appreciate the freedoms we hold, but to see our part in this great nation.
To know our history is to come to understand the importance of honoring and valuing the many who have served in our military, executive, legislative and judicial government.
Naomi St. Jacques