American Legion Post 8 in Washington, D.C., hosted a May 4 luncheon for a busload of World War II and Korean War veterans from Pennsylvania. The veterans were in the nation's capital to visit the national memorials built for their service and sacrifice.
A few veterans aboard the Honor Bus, a program started in 2008 by students at Mechanicsburg (Penn.) Middle School, included a former B-17 Flying Fortress pilot who was shot down on a mission and was a German prisoner-of-war ; a veteran who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War; and a veteran who served as a Seabee in U.S. Navy construction battalions during World War II and the Korean War.
American Legion Legislative Director Louis Celli addressed the veterans during the luncheon, telling them that when the National Park Service closed war memorials last October due to government shutdown, The American Legion worked on the veterans behalf to get the monuments reopened.
Explaining the work done by The American Legion, Celli touched on issues concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). "I'm sure we've all heard of the controversy going on with the VA these days and how, in some cases, they're doing a wonderful job and in some cases, they could be doing their jobs a lot better." He mentioned the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division in Washington, which "specifically goes out and looks at the job that (VA is) doing, (Legion staff) travel to different VA facilities around the country to give a report card on exactly how the VA is performing."
Celli also explained the work performed by the Legion's other divisions in Washington and mentioned the Americanism Division at the Legion's national headquarters in Indianapolis where "we campaign to make sure that our flag doesn't get soiled or stepped on or burned."
Celli emphasized that no veteran is a stranger at any Legion post. "You are welcome here, you are all brothers and sisters of The American Legion," he said.
Other featured speakers at the luncheon included Army veteran Matthew Cary, who served as a combat engineer in Vietnam; George Roundtree, senior vice commander for the Legion's Department of the District of Columbia; Calvin Tildon, Post 8 commander; Everett Baker, Post 8 adjutant; Arnold Nicholson, member of Post 8; and Beckie Lacey of the Honor Bus program.
After their lunch, the veterans visited the World War II and Korean War memorials, and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.