Carroll County News

Carroll veterans, family, Cubs, Scouts journey to D.C. war memorials, museums in honor of D-Day

The guffawing and teasing of three veterans filled one of the three buses leaving from Mount Airy to Washington, D.C., Sunday.

The trip, which first visited war memorials and ended with a visit to the museums, was organized by David Hutchison, member of the American Legion Gold Star Post 191.

It was a way to commemorate the approaching 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, and to give the dwindling number of World War II veterans a chance to see the World War II monument, Hutchison said.

Jack Baker was one of the two World War II vets on the trip to D.C. Baker and his friends, Eric Neilson and Jerome Bujanowski, sat together on the bus, teasing each other and retelling war stories.

"When they wanted a job done, they called the Marines," Baker said, "and when they wanted a job done right, they called the Army," he said, laughing with Neilson, an Army veteran, and Bujanowski, a Marines veteran of the Vietnam War.

Despite the light atmosphere, the stories turned to serious matters.

Neilson prompted Baker to tell the story of a time Baker drove a German vehicle he had taken and then repaired. The vehicle was hit, and Baker was thrown out, Neilson said. The medic came by, saw the blood, pulled a raincoat over him and walked away.

Baker said he remembers the raincoat being pulled off of him and seeing a cross. A chaplain was standing over him.

"Soldier, you're not done yet," Baker said the chaplain told him.

He was patched up and sent back into combat ten days later, Baker said.

"I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him," he said of the chaplain.

Never before, that he's aware of, have four generations gathered together at the World War II memorial, Hutchison said.

It would be like looking at the past and the future at the same time, Hutchison said, because of the past sacrifices of the veterans and the children who might be serving their country in the future.

Once at the World War II memorial, Hutchison organized the roughly 160 people, composed of veterans, auxiliary members of the American Legion, Pack 1191 Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts sponsored by the American Legion, and family members.

The second World War II veteran in the entourage, Ed Darrah, served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

"It doesn't seem long, but it has been," Darrah said when asked about the 70 years that have spanned between his service and the present.

Navy veteran Ron Reese said these World War II vets are the reason we're here.

"I was nothing compared to those guys," Reese said.

Being at the memorials reminds him of what America is all about, he said. It means a lot when someone comes up to shake his hand because it shows that they realize the sacrifices servicemen have done for their country.

If he had the chance, he would do it all again, Reese said, and if any of the other vets were given the choice, they would do the same.

The group then splintered into smaller packs going to the different monuments surrounding the mall. Kathy Biancaniello, wife of a veteran, went to the Vietnam memorial to find one name in the sea of many engraved on the black wall. Dan Zegarick was her neighbor growing up, she said. They used to play ball together, and then he went into the Vietnam war, only 18 or 19 years old.

"Each one of those names has a life," Biancaniello said.

After searching the rows of compacted names, Biancaniello found her neighbor.

"It's hard to believe someone's life was cut short that long ago," Biancaniello said.

For the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts on the trip, their leaders tried to help them understand the enormity of D-Day.

"We're hoping that, in the future, they'll remember this kind of trip," Assistant Scoutmaster David Roberson said.

It's important to relate the memorials back to personal history, said Ruth Strasburger, committee chair of Cub Scout Pack 1191.

After touring the memorials, the veterans and scouts went to the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.

Within the National Museum of American History were exhibits for the different wars fought throughout American history.

Boy Scout Chris Frome said he liked being able to see the different weapons used and how technology has changed over time.

And as for Baker, "I'm 91, and I'm still learning," he said after visiting the National Museum of American History.