World War II vets head to Washington
South Lake Tahoe’s Memorial Day ceremony will be without a few known veterans.
But that’s OK. They’re expected to get their due in Washington, D.C., for the dedication Saturday of the National WWII Memorial.
It’s the first time the Greatest Generation will have been honored with its own monument for those who served in World War II.
For starters, it’s also the first time South Lake Tahoe Army veteran Clarence Olivas has visited the nation’s capital – which will be packed with 35 law enforcement agencies assigned to protect 117,000-plus people estimated to attend the special unveiling of the granite pillar-lined arena on the National Mall.
President George Bush and Tom Hanks round out a long list of dignitaries there for the celebration.
Olivas, with his wife Carol by his side, flew into the city Wednesday evening with other local veterans, including Bill Kerr, Frank Lawrence, Rocky Rogue, Bill Hansen and Hap Halliday. John Perry had already arrived in the capital. The distinguished crowd is already blanketing the city, she said.
Olivas last took a plane 61 years ago, when he was strapped into a B17.
The veterans got a glimpse of citizen gratitude in banners posted around the city that welcome them.
“I’m stiff and tired. But I’m really glad I got to come,” Olivas said after the five-hour trip.
In the whirlwind of activities over four days, Olivas expects the excursion to be an emotional experience.
He’d like to put the war to rest.
“It’s probably the last (event) for me,” he said.
For Olivas’ 80th birthday, his buddies with the Veterans of Foreign Wars chipped in to pay for the couple’s airfare.
Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Reno, secured tickets for them.
“As a fellow veteran myself, I know how important it is for the families and friends of veterans to have a memorial where they can come to remember those lost in World War II,” Gibbons said.
The duo got a surprise from Carol’s family when they arrived at the Days Inn. Her sister paid for their five-day stay.
“Now maybe I can find a few souvenirs,” Carol joked.
The couple shared their excitement about the event, despite its mention as a possible terrorist target if an attack was to happen. U.S. Homeland Security on Wednesday issued a warning that operatives were identified as being in the country.
But threats don’t take away from the experience.
“They’ve been in high security situations before in their lives,” Carol said.
And that’s the way it should be for the honored visitors, National Park Service police Sgt. Scott Fear said.
The organizing agency will not undergo extra measures in light of the recent warning.
“We identified this as a high security event a long time ago. People can expect to see bomb-sniffing dogs, bag checks and police officers all over,” he said.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com