Veterans Bill Tratnik and Bill Perkins know firsthand the respect, honor and dignity associated with the VetsRoll.org organization.
VetsRoll.org provides the safe ground transportation and an enjoyable experience for World War II and Korean Era U.S. military veterans and “Rosie-the-Riveters” from the greater Rockford, Ill., area to visit their war memorials and other related sights in and around Washington, D.C. The cost to the participating veterans is free. Expenses for the trip are paid through fundraising and donations.
Tratnik and Perkins are presenting a $3,000 donation from the UAW Rockford Area CAP Council to VetsRoll.org to help fund this year’s trip, scheduled for May 16-19, according to a news release. In addition, veterans Gary Tallard and Lee Antwine from the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 392 are presenting a $1,200 donation from their organization.
VetsRoll.org is a 100% volunteer not-for-profit Wisconsin corporation, headed up by John and Mark Finnegan, of Finnegans’ RV Center Inc. in South Beloit, Ill. The entire organization consists of 100% volunteer helpers. The volunteers of VetsRoll.org have recognized the urgent need to transport the aging Veterans of WWII as soon as feasibly possible. World War II vets are dying at the rate of 1,000 per day, according to some estimates.
The UAW Rockford Area CAP Council and the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 392 believe United States veterans deserve the appreciation and respect of all Americans. It is through their dedication and loyalty to their country that we enjoy the freedoms for which they so honorably fought. We also encourage other Rockford area community organizations to get involved to help our Veterans realize the gratitude they so richly deserve.
The cost per Veteran for the VetsRoll.org trip is $600. The organization challenged other Rockford area organizations to sponsor at least one veteran to show their appreciation for these veterans having served heroically for our country.
For more information contact Mark Finnegan at (608) 207-8319 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.vetsroll.org.
The light rumble of thunder served as background to raucous applause and piercing whistles that rose up from the parking lot of Central Christian Church in South Beloit, Ill., Thursday evening (May 20).
Road-weary veterans, 128 in all, climbed out of nine RVs and three charter buses single file, of course, following their four-day journey to Washington, D.C., to witness the World War II Veterans Memorial.
Their trip was sponsored by Finnegans’ RV Center Inc. in South Beloit.
Red and white lights bounced off their exuberant faces as two fire trucks, with ladders extended, graced the entrance to the lot, an American flag draped between them.
“Welcome home, soldier” was heard as the veterans made their way out of the RVs, with “Mission Accomplished” signs pasted along the sides.
Hundreds of people filled the parking lot of the Beloit church, waiting patiently with their children and animals, some with blankets wrapped around them.
Madeline Slater, 3, and Jenna Schomber, 9, hoisted a sign that read “Welcome Home Nana and Pop.” They whirled around, hair whipping as they ran between their parents’ legs.
“It’s past their bedtime,” Madeline’s mother, Megan Slater, said with a smile.
Zach and Marisa Franks stood patiently as their children, Mandalyn, 6, and Zavier, 8, held signs with their cousins Azaria Martin, 8, and Aniya Martin, 6.
“They’re so excited,” Marisa said.
Even man’s best friend staked out a spot in the celebration. In attendance was Circle of Change, which trains dogs for emotional support for those who have suffered traumatic events. Londyn went on the VetsRoll trip to serve as an emotional support dog, and trainer Pat Muller was there to pick her up.
“Many of those vets suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and one of our volunteers traveled on the trip with Londyn,” Muller said.
As the veterans slowly made their way inside to the Central Christian Church gymnasium, each was handed a vibrant red carnation and a pin that read “VetsRoll: Mission Accomplished.”
“Well, we made it all home in one piece,” Al Kath Jr. said. “Seeing the memorial is something you will never visualize until you actually see it, and its a wonderful memorial for all those people that never came back.”
Kath recalled the 775-mile trip home, where children lined up over some overpasses waving flags and hollering. It was a once in a lifetime deal, he said.
His son, Richard, volunteered to drive one of the RVs, and once his father’s wheelchair was settled he took a step back.
“They held up pretty well,” he said with a smile.
Harison Teague stood in a daze, looking around the gym filled with people. A young woman approached him, asking to take a photo with him. He gladly threw his arm over her shoulder, adjusted his Marines hat and waited for the camera flash.
“When you’re at my age, you get tired easily,” he said as he made his way to his seat. He tipped his hat back and smiled, waiting for the reception to begin.