Erie veterans group embarks on 6th annual trip to D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - This is the sixth year Joe Pfadt has been taking local military veterans and service members to Washington, D.C. He schedules the trip for the first weekend after the anniversary of the September 11th attacks for one reason.
“It’s a way to honor those post-9/11 veterans and it’s a way to say thank you to those veterans who served,” Pfadt said.
This year, he and his organization Warriors to Washington are joined by 36 veterans and guests to tour the nation’s capital. The trip started with a tour of the U.S. Capitol itself. For some like U.S. Army National Guard Specialist Hannah Hetrick, it has been an eye-opening experience.
“I’ve never been in the Capitol building before and get a tour and just see what it’s all about here,” Hetrick said. “I’m very interested in to see this.”
The trip is meant to give service members a chance to see everything they swore to protect and defend. The next stop: the National Archives, home to the nation's most historic documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Guests are not allowed to take photos or videos inside the Archives. But inside was a shining example of what this trip is all about. At 82-years-old, Pfadt’s uncle, Jack Pfadt, who served 34 years in the U.S. Army National Guard, saw the Constitution in person for the first time.
“It’s hard to get it to sink in,” Jack said. “You look at it and try to remember that this is the original one.”
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Erie are once again on the trip, which is proving to be a bonding moment for them.
“Learning from people who have served before, you’re able to pick up on their stories and pass on that advice,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Alexis Gonzalez.
“They’re telling their sea stories and we’re telling our sea stories,” added U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Anthony LeBaron.
It’s also a time of reflection for those warriors who have seen so much.
“We have a lot of freedom here,” Jack Pfadt said, “and it doesn’t come free.”
Warriors to Washignton has a packed schedule on Sunday, with stops at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia and the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
You can learn more about Warriors to Washington here.