WASHINGTON D.C. —
WASHINGTON – Here at the east end of the reflection pool on the National Mall, the stone columns stand tall and proud around the men they honor.
As World War II veterans of Elkhart County shuffled down the ramp, their eyes wandered up and down and back and forth. For some, this pristine and polished memorial even took them from now to then.
"I love this," said Merlin Truex of Elkhart as he rested for a moment on a bench. "I’ve been to the other monuments here (in Washington D.C.), but this is the best one of the lot … but I may be prejudiced. I’m amazed, I really am."
An Army quartermaster, Truex was based mostly in Hawaii, but often went on allied invasions in the Pacific. On this humid and overcast day in the nation’s capital he was with his brothers again at the World War II Memorial.
Truex was one of 35 World War II veterans and a handful of Korea and Vietnam war veterans who traveled to the D.C. area on a bus thanks largely to the fundraising efforts of Goshen City Councilman Harlan "Chic" Lantz.
The group of veterans arrived at their shrine just before noon. Trip coordinator Mearl Grabill of Goshen led them to the "Pacific" side of the memorial where they were greeted by an attendant.
"We have," Grabill proclaimed as he shook the man’s hand, "a 56-band of angels."
The man smiled, welcomed them all into the memorial and thanked many of them for their service as they passed.
For nearly two hours the men strolled around the memorial, reading the walls and sharing their stories. The group even gathered for photo holding American flags that were given to them as a memento of their trip. They even held flags for other Elkhart County World War II vets who wanted to make the trip but couldn’t. Those flags will be carried back to Indiana and given to those men.