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Knights welcome visiting veterans

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Hollywood tries to get historic events right, but there’s nothing like talking to someone who experienced it firsthand, said Grand Knight John Rovinski Jr. of the Edward Douglass White Knights of Columbus Council 2473 in Arlington. Rovinski was one of dozens of volunteers ⁠— entire families, scouting troops, parishioners and Knights ⁠— who honored nearly 300 veterans at the council’s Honor Flight Dinner Nov. 2.

“There’s nothing like that first-person account of a historical event. You read about things like Pearl Harbor or the Battle of the Bulge in history books. These people were part of these events and they can tell you firsthand about their experience,” Rovinski said. “It’s really something to listen and talk to them.” 

The council has served more than 16,000 participants of the Honor Flight Veterans Network since 2012. The network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring U.S. military veterans by bringing them to visit the war memorials in Washington at no cost.

The Knights host the veterans visiting Washington at their council home and serve them a meal.

“We reach out and see how we can serve them,” Rovinski said. “Sometimes the meal is donated, sometimes we pay for it, sometimes a business donates it. Volunteers come in to help, we get color guards from military, and volunteers from everywhere from scout troops to biker groups. Anyone is welcome to help pay tribute to these brave men and woman who gave us so much.”

Two groups came in for the latest Honor Flight Dinner, and the council adjusted to accommodate them in two shifts. 

Hundreds of volunteers greeted the veterans when they arrived at the council home. After the welcome, the veterans were served dinner, which included a speaking program with James Byrne, deputy secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In his address, Byrne spoke of the department’s — and his — commitment to ensuring veterans get the support they need. 

Robert Szerszynski, the Knights of Columbus Virginia state deputy, thanked the Honor Flight Network and members of Council 2473.

“To date, over 20,000 veterans have been where you are now. I thank the members of this council for their dedication and support to this worthwhile event,” Szerszynski said.

Stepping up to honor and serve veterans is part of what the Knights do and is natural for the council, Rovinski said. “We do whatever it takes to make these veterans comfortable. To make them feel welcome and valued. It’s what we do as Knights.” 

Since its beginning, the Knights have honored and served veterans around the world, including working with the Archdiocese for the Military Services to send thousands of military personnel to a Marian apparition site in France through the Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage. 

Lindberg is vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus. 

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For more info on the Knights of Columbus, go to kofc.org/en//index.html.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019