A contingent of five people from the village of Winnebago went on the VetsRoll trip to Washington D.C. this year. (L-R) John Traum – assistant, Bill Schmittel – Army veteran, Mary Gross – Assistant, Weiland Ackerman – Army veteran, Ralph George – Army veteran.

VetsRoll 2019 edition returns home
By Doug Schroder
The 2019 version of VetsRoll arrived back home on Wednesday evening, May 22, amongst sporadic monsoon like downpours, after having spent the previous four days on the annual trek to Washington D.C.
Ten coach busses carried a total of 375 to 400 people on the trip, with 220 of those being veterans who were able to go on the ride this year. Hundreds of friends and family members, some carrying signs, greeted the entourage when it arrived at the Eclipse Center in Beloit, WI. VetsRoll organizers had to scramble Wednesday afternoon when the weather forced some changes to the welcome home ceremony, bringing it inside the Eclipse Center, instead of outside as planned.
After everyone was inside and seated, the ceremony kicked off with 2013 Auburn High School graduate Hannah Poorman singing the Star Spangled Banner.
Mark Finnegan, the president of the Board of Directors for the VetsRoll organization, then took to the podium to give a brief talk about the trip.
Finnegan started off by reminding the veterans to tell their stories about their time of service. He reminded the younger folk present to document those stories so that the stories would not be lost. Each year eight local high school seniors are invited to come along on the trip.
“This is such an important connection because this is tomorrow’s leaders that are intermingling with yesterday’s heroes and the history of this country,” stated Finnegan.
Two representatives each came from Beloit Memorial and Hononegah High Schools, while Harlem High School had four representatives on the trip.
Finnegan recognized the members of his family, who are all involved in VetsRoll, before introducing Tim “Pogo” Pogorelski, who led the group in a stirring rendition of God Bless America to close the ceremony.
As everyone was leaving I came upon the group from Winnebago who were able to make the trip this year. For one of them, volunteer Mary Gross, it was the fourth time for her going on the trip. When asked what was different about this trip, Gross responded.
“We do the same thing every trip. What is new every time is seeing the reactions of the veterans. One man (a Veitnam era veteran) I was working with had said he didn’t know other veterans had been called ‘baby killer’ too. He was just a teenager when he served and it meant something to him that others had also been called that, for he never understood why he was.”
For many veterans this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Washington D.C and see the memorial to the war they fought in. All expenses are paid for through the VetsRoll organization. If you are, or know, a veteran who would like to go next year, or to make a donation, go to to find out more. If you would like to go along as a volunteer, information can be found on the same website. More information can be received by calling 800-383-2267.

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