PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Veterans make their way up the ramp at the Gateway Clipper dock in Station Square.
It’s the 28th year hospitalized veterans have been welcomed by the Sharing and Caring support group.
“We do this because there’s a need,” says organization treasurer Frank Lopes. “These men and women have given up a major portion of their lives to serve our country.”
Sharing and Caring president Bob Abbott agrees.
“We take them out and give them a day of fun,” he said. “So this is their day.”
The Gateway Empress then pulls away from station Square, the veterans cruise, sponsored by Huntington Bank and Pittsburgh firefighters, is a welcome escape.
“I’m in a rest home there now,” says Navy veteran Walter Ehnes. “My wife’s passed away. This is my first year here and I’ll come every year that I possibly can.”
The annual cruise means a lot to veterans, and those who care for them.
“It means the world to them,” says Valera Hodill of Consulate Health Care. “It’s such a treat to come here and be with these folks. We’re with each other every day. This is very important to them.”
This is the first of four Veterans Cruises taking place this week — 1,600 veterans will be thanked with a ride on the rivers
For vets like Tom Gannon, it goes a long way toward making things right.
“When I came out of Vietnam,” he recalls, “we were the bad guys. Now we’re the good guys, and it feels so good.”
The Empress approaches Point State Park, where a memorial wreathe is lowered into the headwaters of the Ohio, in remembrance.
“For them to say thank you,” says Air Force vet Bill Schaper, “just means everything to your heart, you know.”