PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They were members of the Greatest Generation, and when their country called, they answered.
Now, a group of veterans have made a one-day trip to Washington D.C. to see the World War II Memorial.
“I was hoping I would meet somebody here that I know that I was in the service with, but I guess a lot of my friends were gone,” said Leonard Puma, a World War II Navy veteran.
But a volunteer who has helped more than 1,300 vets make this trip to D.C. says you never know.
“One of the guys was sitting by the window on one of the buses and another guy came and started to say ‘Do you mind if I sit?’ They looked at each other and they started laughing,” said Jackie Caim, a volunteer. “They went to high school together, enlisted together and never saw each other again after World War II.”
They are soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen from all around Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Despite some sore joints and worn out knees, they are as excited as school kids heading out on a field trip.
“My son came in from Wisconsin to be with me today,” said George Priatko, a World War II Army veteran. “I have been wanting to go through it. It’s difficult walking with a cane, but I am really looking forward to this.”
“There’s not too many of us left. I go to Indiantown Gap every year, end of January, for the Battle of the Bulge group,” said Stanley Debick, a World War II Army veteran. “There’s only about eight or 10 of us [that] shows up anymore.”
About 70 are making the whirlwind trip. They’ll be back to Monroeville before 9 p.m. And while many are quick to say thanks, the ones who really should hear it, aren’t here.
“There’s a lot of people who should be here, but they’re gone. And we’re the lucky ones,” said Puma. “But those are the heroes, the ones who are buried. They are the real heroes.”