By Kevin Fleming, ASC Public Affairs.June 30, 2017
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Veterans and active duty service members from the Rock Island Arsenal exchanged stories and laughs during an Honor Tour across the Quad Cities area Thursday.
Honor Flights of the Quad Cities hosted the event, which is a day-long bus tour of local historical sites and landmarks designed to accommodate veterans who are unable to fly to Washington, D.C., for a typical Honor Flight.
Approximately 20 service members served as "guardians" who assisted and bonded with the veterans throughout the day. Exactly 13 veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War eras participated.
Command Sgt. Maj. Richard K. Johnson, command sergeant major, First Army, spoke during a ceremony at the RIA National Cemetery. He encouraged the guardians to learn from the stories of the past.
"Those of you in uniform who are traveling with these veterans today can learn a lifetime of lessons by spending one day with them," he said. "So please, listen as they tell their stories and as you tell yours."
Several of the veterans said they enjoyed the outing.
"Don't be afraid to be amazing," said Betty Felder, Vietnam War veteran and a former operating room nurse from Silvis, Illinois. She said she almost was not able to make it to the tour due to health problems, but she was glad to be there.
Felder, who was the only female veteran on the tour, said she appreciated her guardian's companionship.
"They're very, very nice and very compatible with me," she said.
Felder's guardian was Sgt. 1st Class Hargrove Camille, logistics noncommissioned officer, G-4 (Logistics), U.S. Army Sustainment Command. Camille said she gained a lot from the experience.
"This experience was very educational," she said. "It's taught me a lot about the history of the military and about the women who served."
Other guardians agreed that the event was educational.
"Some of the stories they tell, about how different the service was when they were in, I mean, wow," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bernard Carter, strategic mobility officer, Distribution Management Center, ASC.
This was the forth Honor Tour for the Honor Flights of the Quad Cities, which recently completed its 40th Honor Flight in early June.
"The honoring is what we want to do," said Steve Garrington, director for the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities. "And if we can't do it during an actual honor flight -- by golly -- we'll do it right here in the Quad Cities."
During Honor Flights, veterans fly to the nation's capital where they visit the war memorials dedicated in their honor, their fellow veterans and the fallen. They leave in the morning and fly back in the evening of the same day.
The Quad Cities Patriot Guard escorted the bus to the island for the opening ceremony.
Members of American Legion Post 26 fired a 12-gun salute. Members of Bugles Across America sounded taps.
Students from Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, Iowa, sang the national anthem.
The U.S. Army Sustainment Command, First Army and the Navy detachment at RIA provided personnel.