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Bucks Vietnam veterans visit Washington memorials


It wasn’t quite “zero-dark-thirty.”

It was 3:15 a.m. and volunteers from the Bucks County Tour of Honor were finishing setting up the registration tables, awaiting the arrival of 275 Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans. The location? PARX Casino in Bensalem.

At 6 a.m., the six-bus convoy would transport the veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials to veterans and then be returned to PARX Casino to receive the “Welcome Home” most of them never received. This was the third annual trip for the Tour of Honor to honor Vietnam veterans. In October, the fourth annual trip to take World War II and Korea veterans will be made.

Upon arrival at PARX the vets registered and received their bag of paraphernalia for the trip. After coffee and doughnuts, and introductions, blessings for a safe trip were offered by local clergy including Commander Chaplain Peter Gregory, U.S. Navy, retired, who currently leads New Jersey’s Lambertville Community Church and is American Legion District 9 chaplain.

The veterans’ convoy was escorted to Washington, D.C., by police from many of Bucks County’s municipalities and the Bucks County’s Sheriff department. They were met en route by members of the National Park Police and escorted first to the World War II Memorial. They then traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to observe the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldiers.

The next stop was the U.S. Air Force Memorial where they passed through a USAF Honor Guard phalanx. Following this they enjoyed a box lunch and shared the camaraderie of their fellow vets and the myriad of volunteers.

Following lunch, the veterans reboarded the six-bus convoy and traveled to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – “The Wall.” The vets looked for the names of their comrades who did not return home. Many made rubbings of the names on the wall – their comrades who were killed in action (KIA) or missing in action (MIA).

The veterans then marched to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Two veterans were selected to accompany U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Gronski, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army – Europe; Col. Clair Gill, U.S. Army; and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick to place a wreath at the memorial. Mike DiBonis represented the Vietnam vets and Jerry Fretz, commander, U.S. Navy, retired, represented the veterans who serve as volunteers with the Tour of Honor.

Both DiBonis and Fretz are directors of the Tour of Honor and also serve as bus captains/ambassadors. Gronski recently returned from a tour of duty in Poland and traveled with the Vietnam veterans. Following the wreath placement, the veterans posed for group pictures.

The convoy then returned to the PARX Casino with their escort. At the Pennsylvania border, the escorts were joined by additional municipality police and first responder groups by a large contingent of “Warrior Watch” and other motorcyclist groups. The contingent stretched almost two miles as it traveled on I-95 returning to the PARX Casino.

Upon arrival at PARX Casino, they were greeted by cheering crowds (more than 500 people) of mummers, veterans groups and family members. They were then treated to dinner and entertainment.

Look for members of the community sporting white shirts or wearing hats with a Bucks County Tour of Honor logo and the words “Vietnam Veteran.” Feel free to thank them for their service and become a part of the Welcome Home they never received previously.

On Oct. 7, 2019, World War II and Korea vets will have the opportunity to take the trip. Veterans from this era and potential “guardians” for the veterans may obtain applications for the trip at

Jerry Fox is the purple bus co-captain/ambassador for the Bucks County Tour of Honor.