VetsRoll 2014 took off from Beloit early Sunday morning, headed for Washington, D.C.
"It's three words; it's closure, gratitude, and respect and that's what we deliver," Mark Finnegan said. Finnegan and his family started VetsRoll in 2010, as a tribute to their late father who fought in World War II. Four years later, the group is still rolling to the nation's capital to honor veterans.
"I myself am not a veteran. My four oldest brothers are Vietnam veterans and I've always had this kind of empty feeling that I didn't serve the country and so I guess my brother John and I and my wife Darleen, we are kind of giving back that way because we weren't veterans," he said.
Two hundred veterans from WWII and the Korean War and Rosie-the- Riveters boarded buses at 5:15 a.m. Sunday in Beloit for the four-day trip, to visit the war memorials; a trip veterans say they will not take lightly.
"Most of us that go there have the ability to look and see what has gone on and I immediately start thinking about all the guys that never got that chance," said veteran, Chuck Pwors.
Some 12,000 American flags lined the Riverside Drive as the 11 buses embarked on their journey. Finnegan said all the work it takes to put on the event is all worth it in the end.
"To be able to show them that respect they've earned so much over the years..it's just a great feeling for everybody involved," said Finnegan.
Some 145 assistants, photographers, and volunteers will accompany them during the trip. Altogether, more than 365 will participate in the fifth annual VetsRoll trip this year.
A motorcycle escort lead the way , as buses traveled out of town. Displays of gratitude, and respect poured out throughout the city. Beloit's fire department also paid tribute to the veterans. Fire trucks formed an arch with fire hoses as the VetsRoll buses drove down the street.
One new addition this year includes family members and friends being able to track the trip on the VetsRoll website throughout the road trip. The veterans will return to the Eclipse Center Wednesday. In past years, hundreds of people have come out to welcome the heroes home.
To learn more about the annual trip, head to http://www.vetsroll.org/Home.aspx