200 Rockford area veterans return home after trip of a lifetime - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

200 Rockford area veterans return home after trip of a lifetime

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WWII Veteran Julius Bellin WWII Veteran Julius Bellin
BELOIT (WREX) -

Rockford area military men and women get a warm reception as they return home. They're not necessarily coming back from serving a tour, more like getting to tour their World War II and Korean War memorials.

"This was magnificent, I had the time of my life. There were a lot of people, a lot of friends and we had a lot of fun." -says WWII Navy Veteran Julius Bellin.

Thanks to volunteer efforts and generous donations to the Vets Roll Program, 200 veterans traveled to Washington D.C. at no cost to them.

"It was just so great sharing this experience with the guys, they're just so sweet and lovable and they were fun to take care of and it was our pleasure." says Vets Roll Program Assistant Volunteer Gail Rafferty. Her dad, Korean War veteran and Army Staff Sergeant Donald L. Tolmie, went on the trip with her.

The veterans' four-day trip ended at Beloit's Eclipse Center late Wednesday night. Hundreds waited for their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters to return.

"I think we need to just thank all of our veterans, past, present and future for what they do for us, that we are able to live the lives that we live today." -says Mary Holeton, whose father went on the Vets Roll trip.

Miss Jr. Teen Wisconsin, Kaitlin Larson, came to the Vets Roll Home event dressed nearly head-to-toe in red, white and blue. Her family members, who served as veterans, inspire her.

"I grew up learning about them and I'm just so amazed that they gave their lives for us. It's amazing." -she says.

As the 11 buses pulled up, veterans like Julius Bellin are greeted with cheers, hugs and a fireworks display. Bellin turns 95 on July 4th this year. A first-timer on the Vets Roll tour, he's overwhelmed by the gratitude and appreciation of even complete strangers.

"We were in Washington and it's unbelievable the kids who come over and shake your hand and thank us for fighting for this country. It made them feel safe that they have a nice place to live now." -he says with tears in his eyes.

This is the fourth year organizers have put on the Vets Roll event.

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