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In appreciation of their service, Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC) honored 38 east Texas World War II veterans with an all-expense-paid trip to Washington on May 11 and May 12 to visit the World War II Memorial and other national monuments.
During their trip, the World War II veterans also visited the U.S. Capitol, where they received a personal tour led by Rep. Louis Gohmert. Upon their arrival in Washington, the veterans received a water salute as their plane approached the gate at the airport, and were also honored inside the airport by active-duty U.S. Marines, as well as the cheers and applause of hundreds of spectators.
“The purpose of this trip was to honor these veterans and to sincerely say thank you,” said Rick Ellis, BGC’s CMO. “Those of us that were fortunate enough to travel with these men are honored to be able to assist and serve them. They become like family. We live in a wonderful country with many freedoms that these men and many other men and women like them defended.”
Noting that the World War II Memorial wasn’t built until 2004, Ellis said that most of these veterans had never had a chance to see it. “We’re glad we were able to provide that opportunity for them. There is an engraved quote at the World War II Memorial from President Harry S Truman that perhaps sums up our feelings best,” said Ellis, citing the quote: “‘Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.’”
One of the veterans, Tyler resident Hal Johnson, said: “Visiting the World War II Memorial was wonderful. But that tribute from those active-duty soldiers — that was something special.”
Another highlight of the trip was the presentation of letters to the veterans from local students at “mail call.” Students from Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Grace Community School in Tyler; Velma Penny Elementary in Lindale, Texas; and Bullard Intermediate and High School in Bullard, Texas, wrote messages of gratitude to the veterans.
“I’m sure proud of the kids and the way their teachers have taught them,” said veteran Al Stevens of Tyler. “They seem to know what it means to win and lose a war. They expressed themselves so well and seem to understand that we have our freedoms today because somebody defended them.”
Dave Spencer of Pittsburg, Texas, added: “They weren’t long letters, but they showed true appreciation. I’ve read my letters three times. One asked me to write back and said she always wanted a pen pal that was a World War II vet. She’s got one in me.”
Stevens added: “It was just one surprise after another. From the time we met at the store with the cheering crowd to returning back the next night to the nice flag tribute from the Welcome Home Soldier group, it was just wonderful. It was quite an honor.”
In summing up the experience, Spencer said: “It was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard of, let alone done. The whole thing was just absolutely fabulous.”
Known for friendly service, clean stores and strong community support, BGC operates 151 stores in three states with three distribution centers and seven manufacturing facilities.