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Home2016 NewsVets’ odyssey to Washington ends in grand fashion

Bucks County Courier Times

Vets’ odyssey to Washington ends in grand fashion
by Peg Quann
Bucks County Courier Times
September 26, 2016

Jean David, of Doylestown, who will turn 95 on Oct. 14, a former member of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce in England who married an American serviceman, shakes hands with Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo after returning to Parx Casino in Bensalem after a Bucks County Tour of Honor to Washington, D.C., on Monday, September 26, 2016. David’s guardian for the trip was daughter Sandra Barkerding (left), of Texas.

Not one detail was overlooked as the recently formed Bucks County Tour of Honor provided a day and night to remember Monday to 150 elderly veterans.

“They treated them so well. They treated them like super stars, which they are,” said Eric Schnitzer, of Bensalem, who accompanied his father, Norman Schnitzer, on the trip.

In six large buses, the vets, each with an assistant companion, traveled from Parx Casino in Bensalem to Washington, D.C., to visit and lay wreaths at the historic memorials to World War II and the Korean War – in which many of them fought – as well as to the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials, the Iwo Jima flag-raising memorial to the U.S. Marine Corps and Arlington National Cemetery.

At the Air Force Memorial, they watched an Air Force drill team performance and enjoyed lunch.

For Jean David, who will turn 95 next month, and her daughter, Sandra Barkerding, of Texas, the highlight of the excursion was getting to meet a member of the Royal Air Force stationed at the British Embassy who came to greet them during their visit to Washington. David, formerly Jean Campbell, had worked as the telephone operator for the Royal Air Force’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in Britain during World War II.

“She connected (former British Prime Minister) Winston Churchill and (Gen. Dwight) Eisenhower,” on the phone lines, said her daughter.

David recalled that her late husband, Harry David, was an American soldier stationed in England whom she followed back to the states and married when the war ended.

The two women teared up as they described how thoughtful it was that the Tour of Honor had been able to arrange the meeting with the member of the Royal Air Force.

“It was wonderful,” David said.

But the day was far from over. The group later returned to Bensalem, where a motorcade of flag-draped motorcycles led the tour buses back to Parx Casino and fire trucks with lights flashing lined the driveway while a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Hundreds of well-wishers greeted them as they walked up a red carpet into the casino for a sit-down dinner.

Uniformed soldiers, sailors and airmen joined with flag-waving children, Revolutionary War re-enactors and even the Hotsy-Totsy Gals – a trio reminiscent of the girl groups who serenaded soldiers in the 1940s and ’50s – in lining the walkway to welcome the vets home.

The William Tennent and Bensalem High School bands kept the mood festive as they played patriotic songs while the crowd waited for the buses to return. Inside, a Mummers string band provided musical entertainment while the Council Rock High School North chorus led the national anthem.