- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

War veterans from across the country came to the District yesterday to visit the memorials built in their honor and to take part in Veterans Day ceremonies this weekend.

“Veterans Day is about paying tribute to the guys who gave it all,” said Jim “Doc” Hackett, a Marine combat medic from Indiana who served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966.

Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Trampp, who served in the Navy and the Army, and spent two years in Vietnam, was among 50 veterans from Arizona who received a free trip to the District this weekend from the veterans center in Phoenix.

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“It’s been real emotional,” he said. “I shed a few tears. I’m hoping to leave my bag of rocks here when I go home.”

Robert Priester, a Marine who quit high school at 16 to fight in World War II, said the memories of battle never fade.

“You get flashbacks about it every once in a while,” he said. “After 60 years, you don’t forget it.”

Sgt. Jim Schultz, of Chicago, came to the District with his family to attend the Marine Corps’ Birthday Ball.

Sgt. Schultz, 62 and a Vietnam veteran, said walking along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was a traumatic experience.

“Too many names you can’t remember, too many friends up on the wall,” he said.

His son-in-law, Mike Korman, 37, served 20 years in the Navy and was in Iraq and the first Gulf War. His achieved the rank of master chief petty officer, the highest enlisted rank in the Navy.

“I saw a lot of heroism from the soldiers, sailors and Marines,” he said. “When you see heroes around you, …you’re overwhelmed by the kids who are putting it all on the line.”

Capt. John Nadeau, of Nashville, Tenn., served as a battalion surgeon with the Marines in Iraq in 2003. He came to Arlington this weekend to celebrate the retirement of a female captain and said he was inspired by “all the young Marines who volunteer to serve in Iraq when they don’t have to.”

Many veterans support the troops in Iraq but have mixed feelings about the future of the war.

“I feel Iraq is something that needs to be done, but [we’re] losing too many troops,” said Jim Kleyman, a former Navy commander from Ohio. “It doesn’t seem the Iraqi people want us there.”

Sgt. Trampp offered advice based on his experiences after Vietnam.

“Listen to the soldiers,” he said. “They’ll tell you the truth of what’s going on over there.”

Many veterans said Veterans Day, which is officially today, is a time to remember the troops who served and those now serving.

“It’s to pay respect to all our fallen brothers no matter what branch of service they were in and not to forget the kids in Iraq that are fighting right now,” said James Pickard, a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War.

One of Sgt. Pickard’s traveling partners, Don Ruberto of Lockport, N.Y., calls Veterans Day “the greatest day of the year.”

“When we keep the memories alive, we’ll be all right,” he said. “Those who forget history will repeat mistakes.”

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