Students, teachers, volunteers give veterans a proper welcome home

YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- A school district in York County is making it a mission to give our nation's heroes a proper welcome home.

You certainly will not see something like it every day.

"It's a brotherhood, and that says enough in itself," said Teddy Banks, an army veteran.

146 decorated men and women come together for the first time inside Northeastern High School in York County.

"Whether it be WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, we're all connected in that way," explained Banks.

Some veterans like Banks have more than four decades of service in the Armed Forces.

"It's a culmination of all these veterans here today, coming together as one," added Banks.

It's all thanks to Northeastern School District In York County.

Each year, veterans pack busses and head down to our nation's capital, where little surprises every leg of the trip, like dozens of people lining Interstate 83, make quite the impact.

"Being here with all these guys I traveled down here with, it's a special day. It really is," said Dennis Haines, an army veteran.

For Dennis Haines of Palmyra, it's also a journey down memory lane.

"Just look for Junior..." said Haines.

Haines is searching for one name amid a sea of nearly 58,000 fallen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

"He is the first really close friend I had in Vietnam who was killed," explained Haines. "That is one fella I would hope would make it back."

For many of the men and women who did make it home, the wall is a form of recognition a long time coming.

"It should've been done right away cause these guys weren't treated good when we came back, nobody was treated good when we came back," said Francis Arnold, an army veteran.

Arnold is here remembering his close friend and cousin.

"Right here," he said. "This is tough because we spent our summers together, fishing, carrying on..."

It's a tough day he calls worth it.

"My wife talked me into it, actually. I wasn't going to come. She said, 'you ought to go', but it was worth it, worth it," said Arnold.

"This is everything to me. This is really important; I spent so much of my time on this, like hours, and hours, and hours," said Megan Sweitzer, a student leader on the trip.

"I saw my grandpa; he was saluting along the street, and I cried. The motorcycles, when they salute along the road, I always cry then, and just throughout the day, seeing the different memorials, how they're reacting," added Sweitzer.

Sweitzer's journey with these veterans is only just just beginning.

"Summer vacation is coming. What are you doing this summer?" asked Duane Swartz, the organizer of the trip. "This young girl here come June 3rd is shipping out for Fort Jackson, South Carolina!"

Sweitzer is enlisting into the Army National Guard before senior year even begins, making family, friends, and the entire Bobcat community so very proud.

"To be able to share this with students, you know, and have students you know take on a passion of their own. You know, I have now my fourth student has been involved with this project enlist in the military," explained Swartz.

That's only part of the reason Swartz started coordinating Honor Bus.

"I do it cause my father was a WWII veteran," stated Swartz. "I've always said, 'because I can't take my own father, I can take somebody else's father, somebody else's mother, you know, brother, uncle that's been the motivation... really really has."

Finishing the day, it's trip deep in the veterans' hearts, and they have a new memory in hand.

"Meeting the people - that's everything to me," said John Stambaugh, a WWII veteran.

"We're just happy to be here together," added Banks.

"It's just been amazing. We can relate to each other so well," added Haines.

Northeastern School District will take even more veterans on an honor bus ride this November.

For more information, visit the Honor Bus website. 

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