Museum celebrates WWII D.C. trip Anniversary
Wickliffe - May 2nd was a special day at the Kentucky Veteran and Patriot Museum not only because it was Thank a Veteran Day, but because the museum celebrated the 10th Anniversary of a special trip taken by WWII veterans to Washington D.C.
In what museum curator Sandy Hart has called “The Long Overdue Journey,” 17 busses full of veterans and their companions from Kentucky made their way to the newly unveiled WWII monument in Washington D.C. 10 years ago. The trip was no small venture in that it required lots of help in organizing all the veterans and in the tremendous generosity of the community.
Those organizers and some of the veterans who took the trip reminisced about their adventure during the anniversary celebration.
Lois Hall was one of those organizers. She had been the Northern Kentucky liaison, who helped fill 5 busses with WWII vets and their companions. It was on the trip that Hall said she met the “Love of her Life. “ Doug Bickel, who was also at the museum on Saturday, was one of the WWII Veterans on board one of her busses. She said she was supposed to be on the bus Doug was on, but someone had taken her spot. Throughout the trip, the two kept a close eye on each other. After the trip, the couple got together, and they have been together ever since.
Julia Givens of Marshall County was the Captain on Bus 6; she had been the coordinator out of Benton, who helped fill 2 busses with a total of 43 vets on each bus. She said the youngest veteran on her bus was 77 years old. “It’s amazing that [veterans] 77 and above would take the trip,” she said. It’s going to be something they’re going to talk about for some time.”
Among the veterans who attended the trip that came to the Anniversary at the KVPM was Harley Hargis, who had served in the Navy aboard the USS Revenge AM 110, which was the first allied ship into Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrendered. Hargis explained how he was able to help lay a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the monument in D.C. even though only 4 people are usually allowed to do it. “I was up close enough I just stepped in with them [the four others]. It was pretty heart-warming,” Hargis said.
Korean War Veteran Buddy Hixon was another veteran who came out to the celebration. Although he was not a WWII veteran, he was involved with helping send WWII vets on the trip. He gave the first $100 donation to the WWII D.C. trip fund. He also spent a day down at the Paducah waterfront giving out rides in his jeep at $5 a ride; all of the money he raised went toward the fund.
While he did not take the trip to D.C., Edgar Harrell came up from Clarksville, Tennessee to speak about how he survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945. He was one of only 317 servicemen out of 1,196 on board who made it out of the water alive after having survived 4 days in shark-infested waters.
Harrell and his son recently published a book entitled Out of the Depths about his experience following the sinking of the ship.
Hart said the whole WWII D.C. trip stemmed from an assignment given to her by Greg LeNeave, Publisher of Kentucky Publishing Inc. “The fact that this whole thing 11 ½ years ago goes back to Greg Le Neave asking me to grab a vet and throw some questions together to ask him,” Hart said. “So, I set out to do a simple interview.”
She said she started interviewing WWII Vets on their deathbeds; three died before the end of that December. “Within 9 days, they died,” Hart said.
Upon gathering up some groups of WWII Vets to interview, Hart kept hearing a recurring statement: “We’re never going to live to see our Memorial finally finished.”
The second trigger, according to Hart, for organizing the trip was the people of Ballard County sending copies of the Advance Yeoman all across the United States that contained 4 ½ pages of articles about Veterans. Hart was contacted by an individual in Washington D.C. who had received a copy. This phone call, in conjunction with the knowledge that the WWII Memorial would be completed soon, solidified the idea for the trip.
“I’m eternally grateful to him [Greg LeNeave] for having me do the story in the first place,” said Hart. “Everything started with that simple request to write an article for Veteran’s day 2002.”