A hero’s welcome

September 14, 2018 | 4:10 am

Updated September 14, 2018 | 5:53 am

WWII veteran Arch Bamberger prepares for a Blue Angels takeoff. | Photo by Owensboro Times

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 19 veterans were given a proper send-off at the Owensboro Sportscenter as they prepared to spend 24 whirlwind hours in Washington, D.C. The fanfare procession did not stop at Owensboro’s city limits; it followed them out of town to restaurants, through airports and to national memorials.

They returned on Thursday morning to Owensboro streets lined with flag-waving onlookers and 48 hours worth of memories that were a small reward for years of dedicated military service.

Veteran Walter Gainey shares stories with Blue Angels crew members. | Photo by Owensboro Times

The veterans were then taken to MidAmerica Jet, Hangar 5, for a luncheon and a surprise visit with the crew of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans lined the lip of the hangar for a front row view of a picturesque Blue Angel takeoff. This came just moments after the band of brothers shared their memories from a monumental trip.

WWII Navy veteran Arch Bamberger and his son Ron, who was his guardian for the trip, said that they could not get over the number of tourists in the nation’s capital that demonstrated their appreciation.

“Everyone was so appreciative and so thankful,” Ron Bamberger said.

What really impressed him more than anything was a family with five children that made a point to come over and to introduce their children to Arch Bamberger and tell them what a hero he was.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 (U.S. Army Retired) Walter Gainey, Jr., like all of the other veterans, was anxious to visit the memorials that represented the various wars and conflicts in which he served. This trip, however, Gainey was on a special mission. He and his daughter Maria, who served as his guardian on the trip, received a special escort to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the gravesite of his late wife Frances.

Gainey had been waiting for this day since he lost his wife two years ago and was too ill to attend the interment service. When he approached the white stone marker, he fell to his knees and shared a private moment with his wife, a moment that had been built on 53 years of marriage and two years of living with a broken heart, according to his daughter Maria.

It took a Naval officer and an Honor Flight volunteer grabbing a hold of each of Gainey’s arms to help him to his feet, as tears streamed from his eyes. Gainey’s journey for the day was not complete, as he was then asked to be part of the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington. It was an exhausting and emotional 48 hours, but it was certainly worth it to Gainey and his daughter.

“I finally got to see my wife,” Gainey said.

September 14, 2018 | 4:10 am

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