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WWII vets visit their memorial

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On a sunny day in Washington, standing just behind an honor guard and surrounded by 60 veterans using canes or wheelchairs, Maria Carolla, an eighth-grader at St. Andrew the Apostle School in Clifton, greets the veterans in song, “Oh, say can you see.”

Veterans from the Pacific Northwest, many wearing their military insignia and matching Honor Flight T-shirts, had taken the Puget Sound Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial Sept. 25.

“It honors the veterans and changes your perspective in life,” said Maria Carolla.

Carolla said she became emotional while singing the national anthem for the veterans.

“There was a joyfulness of being able to do this for the veterans and to honor them,” she said.

Carolla was invited to sing by Anita McCaskey, an Honor Flight volunteer who had heard her sing at a Lenten soup supper last year.

“It’s a great opportunity for young students to honor the greatest generation,” said McCaskey. “I find a bugler and singer for the event, and I like to extend an invitation for high schoolers or late middle schoolers to volunteer.”

Carolla said she encourages any student interested in singing to consider volunteering.

“It honors the veterans and changes your perspective in life,” she said. “You can get the perspective on how life is going to be and how not everything is going to be easy.”

Carolla said meeting the veterans will change her outlook on her history classes. 

“Respecting our veterans is very touching for them,” said Carolla. “Some of the vets got closure from coming to the memorial.”

Her mother, Cathy, said she was moved by the veterans’ visit to the memorial.

“My husband and I are going to be adding them to our charity list,” said Cathy. “They deserve it.”

Cathy, whose father-in-law and brother were in the U.S. Navy, said she’s proud of anyone in military service and wants them to be honored.

“I’ve taught my children to honor people in uniform and thank them for their service,” she said.

Veterans from 127 cities are flown to Washington at no cost by the Honor Flight Network, which is run entirely by volunteers and depends on donations. The first Honor Flight took place in 2005 bringing 12 veterans to town on six flights. The Honor Flight Network has brought veterans to the memorial since 2006. Last year, more than 11,000 veterans came on Honor Flights. Top priority is given to terminally ill veterans and those who fought in World War II. Each veteran’s trip costs approximately $1,000 and is covered by the organization.

Local veterans will have the opportunity to visit Washington’s memorials with Honor Flight Top of Virginia. The inaugural trip Oct. 15 will bring World War II veterans by bus from Winchester, Clarke County and Frederick County, Va.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016