Whirlwind tour brings back memories

Whirlwind tour brings back memories by Bob Karolevitz Washington, DC (delayed) � We came to the nation�s capital mostly to see the World War II Memorial. We were not disappointed!

We also saw the Korean War statues; and of the two commemorations, it was the most impressive. While I spent most of my time in General Van Fleet�s headquarters in Seoul, I was infantry enough to relate to the squad of sculpted soldiers in ponchos and battle gear, seemingly intent on taking another hill.

The M-1 Garands, the carbines and the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) they carried brought back lots of memories of my service as a reserve in two wars.

Actually, the visits were nostalgic trips which Phyllis arranged for �her old vet.� But we got a bonus, too!

Lt. Col. Bob Hagen, our nephew, gave us a night-time tour of the Pentagon where he was stationed as a public affairs officer. He was away from his desk on that infamous day when the terrorist-controlled plane plowed into the building. He would have been included among the casualties had he been there.

Incidentally, he also told us there were lots of rats (the furry kind) in the otherwise pristine Pentagon. He said he could tell us more, but then he�d have to kill us, he joked.

At least I took it as a joke!

I didn�t mean it as a flippancy when I told him I had served in the Pentagon, too � but it sounded like it. It was early in 1946 when all we wanted was �out.� He showed me where my office would have been in the historical section. Unfortunately, I only found it once, but nobody cared then.

In honor of my service, though, he presented me with a World War II -Korea cap, complete with a Ruptured Duck pin, which all of us got when we were discharged. (I apparently lost mine, but now I have one.)

In addition to the Pentagon and war memorial tours, Bob took us to see the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. The soldiers all clicked their heels resoundingly, and it reminded me of the time (when I was a private in basic training) I came to attention for a second lieutenant while lying flat on my back behind a rifle range parapet.

I clicked my heels then, too � and it only cost me Sunday on KP!

In Arlington we saw thousands upon thousands of veterans buried there. I knew some of them personally, and it gave one an eerie feeling of mortality � but also there was a surge of patriotism, too.

During our tour among the tombstones (we were looking for a memorial to Glenn Miller), we came upon a military funeral, with flag-draped horse-drawn caisson, a marching honor guard and a band playing dirgeful tunes. Believe me, it was moving indeed!

Getting back to the Pentagon, we learned how Bob had written speeches for loftier brass, planned big special events and worked with newsmen and women � including Helen Thomas � whom we have only known on television.

It was a far cry from the young man � son of my late sister, Ruth and her husband, Vince � who had painted our barn when he stayed with us in Mission Hill one summer.

Bob and his wife, Sharon, hosted us generously. When we left, they gave us a medallion commemorating the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, now repaired so that only memories of that fateful day remain.

It said: �We will not forget!�

� 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz

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