Carnegie citizens line streets to greet veterans
Hundreds of WWII, Korean-era vets welcomed on trip to Washington D.C.
BY ALEXANDER POPICHAK
In an era so politically divisive and with communities so disconnected from one another, it's heartwarming to see a community rally around those who served — and that's exactly what happened Monday morning in Carnegie.
VetsRoll, an organization dedicated to taking WWII and Korean-era vets to see their monuments in Washington D.C. for free, stopped for lunch in the quiet suburb en route from Wisconsin. As about 260 veterans rolled into town, hundreds of citizens lined the streets — ranging in age from elementary students to veterans — to greet them with cheers and chants of "U-S-A."
According to Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek, as many as 400 people came out to greet the vets as they made their way on the quarter-mile stretch from the Parkway West to a luncheon at Cefalo's Banquet and Event Center.
"I talked to Lenny (Cefalo), and I said, 'Lenny, we need to really give them a nice welcome when they come off that Parkway,' " Kobistek said via phone Tuesday. "We have a perfect set up for it, so logistically they come down this long corridor right into Lenny's parking lot, couldn't ask for a better opportunity to welcome some of our vets."
The plan they devised was simple: reach out to as many people as they could to get a good showing on short notice. According to Kobistek, four grades from Carnegie's elementary school came, as well as the local VFW post, the American Legion, the Legion Riders (a motorcycle group related to the Legion), a contingent from the Knights of Columbus, business owners and residents.
"I sent out an e-mail blast, and I talked to a number of organizations in the community, and every one of them stepped up," he said. "It turned out to be a nice and poignant greeting for these vets that really changed the world."
The effort paid off. The veterans were caught by surprise with a police escort and the town's reception. The organization posted the following video of the welcome to their Facebook page, with the caption "This is what America is all about!":
Kobistek attended the luncheon and said that the vets loved their greeting.
"I heard over and over again that this was the best welcome they've received anywhere, including when they came back from the war," Kobistek said. "So many of them told me that they cried, their eyes teared up. It was really an exceptional experience on their end, and I believe they will have fond memories of the love that Carnegie showed them for the rest of their lives."