WASHINGTON, D.C. — They boarded the bus under menacing morning skies, wrapped in ponchos that would protect them from a daylong deluge as they moved from one memorial to another.
But nary could a weather complaint be heard among the 30 World War II veterans who got a whirlwind tour Friday of Washington, D.C., museums and monuments.
Their first stop was Arlington National Ceremony, where four Heroes Flight members were randomly chosen to be part of the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Warren Trent, 92, of Tyler was among those chosen, taking part in the solemn ceremony as a trumpeter played taps.
“It was unexpected,” Trent said of getting picked to take part. “I’ve seen presidents up there, and I don’t claim to be one of those.”
Trent said he also was unexpectedly nervous.
“It sounds strange that a person my age would be getting nervous,” he said.
“I thought our wreath-layers did an excellent job,” said Sam Anderson, Brookshire’s community involvement manager. “We’ve never laid a wreath at Arlington National Ceremony.”
Water-filled barricades prevented access to the next scheduled stop, the Marine Corps War Memorial, so the group moved on to the National World War II Memorial, but not after some discussion of whether to move the barrier.
Rain fell hard as the veterans — some walking and others in wheelchairs — made their way down the ramp to the memorial’s base. They didn’t get to stay long due to the heavy downpour.
“I thought it was great, but we didn’t get to see much,” Trent said. “Just being there was worthwhile.”
Lowell Wood, 89, of Chandler, said the memorial’s size surprised him.
“It was broader than I expected,” Wood said. “It covered more area than I expected.”
Because the government shutdown, the memorial’s fountain display was off.
“I imagine the water display is something to see,” Wood said. “But unfortunately, the water was all coming down instead of going up.”
After the memorial, it was time for lunch, and the veterans ate sandwiches in the downpour.
“Picnic in the rain. This is great.” said Bob Finley, 88, of Tyler.
Nearby, a local media team interviewed Mike Slezak, 90, of Troup.
“They were asking me my opinion of the truck drivers, protesting the shutdown, on the loop here in Washington,” Slezak said. “I told them Congress is doing the best they can, and they’ll figure out something. And we shouldn’t be protesting.
“They also asked me about my trip, and I told them that in spite of the rain and in spite of the shutdown, I was having a ball.”
The group found drier conditions inside the next stop, the Naval Heritage Center, before moving on to the Newseum, where they got to see the front page of Thursday’s Tyler Morning Telegraph electronically on display. The page prominently displayed photos and a story from their sendoff and tour the day before.
The day ended with dinner at a Knights of Columbus Hall.