Their sober reflections were mercifully interrupted by surprising and delightful interactions with strangers. Adults visiting the memorial, school students on field trips, and even young children came up and asked if they could shake the veterans’ hands. And as they did, they expressed their gratitude for the veterans’ service.
Before they left their memorial, the veterans from Indiana were gathered together for a large group photograph. Seventy veterans stretched across the front of the reflecting pool cradled by the ‘arms’ of the two great pavilions — Atlantic and Pacific — that both appeared to smile down upon them under a glorious sunny day with blue skies.
As the veterans were getting in position for the photograph, crowds of people congregated to witness the group shot. They instinctively recognized the historic moment of the occasion and understood it was their opportunity to thank the veterans who helped protect their country and preserve freedom in much of the world. A spontaneous eruption of cheers and clapping burst from the crowd as the heroes from WW II were rightfully honored.
Following the magic at the WW II Memorial, the veterans and their guardians crossed the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery. There they witnessed the somber and moving changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
After passing by the enormous Marine Corps Memorial, the veterans were taken back into D.C. and dropped off by the Lincoln Memorial. Here they had the option of visiting the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and/or the Lincoln Memorial.
The group finally returned to the 38th Division Headquarters shortly after 9 p.m. where they were to meet back up with their family members for the drive back to their homes.
But one final surprise remained: the homecoming. Family units joined hundreds of patriotic friends and fellow citizens who had gathered to welcome the veterans’ home from their trip.