Jenna Neubauer of Mountain Top, a student at Crestwood High School, second from right, organized a fundraiser called "Vets to DC" to provide an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for local veterans. Some of the veterans from the American Legion Post 781 in Mountain Top helping Jenna with fundraising are, from the left, Chet Buff, Bill Heckman, John Columbo and Al Finn.Pete G. Wilcox/The Times Leader,
Jenna Neubauer, right, and classmate Ashley Knesis make bag lunches at Jenna’s house for the trip to Washington, D.C.Pete G. Wilcox/The Times Leader
WRIGHT TWP. – Crestwood High School senior Jenna Neubauer sponsored “Vets to D.C.,” an all-expenses-paid veterans’ trip to Washington, D.C., departing today, for people like Al Finn.
Finn, 70, of Mountain Top, who served in the U.S. Army from 1959-62, was stationed at Fulda Gap on the border with the former Communist East Germany as a tank commander in the 3rd Armored Division during the Cold War. The gap was the obvious tank invasion route for Communist forces if they had decided to invade the West.
Finn watched as men, women and children tried to cross from behind the Berlin Wall. He saw and heard the gunfire that ensued. He witnessed a child lying for hours in agony before Russian forces dragged the body out of sight.
But Finn has never seen any of the memorials built in his and other service personnel’s honor at the nation’s capital.
Through speaking to veterans such as Finn, Neubauer, 18, began to understand the meaning of sacrifice.
She has spent countless hours organizing and raising funds for her senior project, “Vets to D.C.,” which will provide transportation and meals to veterans on the trip today.
Veterans will visit the National World War II, Korean Veterans and Vietnam Veterans memorials, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial – all during the Cherry Blossom season in the nation’s capital.
U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino will also meet the veterans upon their arrival near the National World War II Memorial this afternoon.
“I consider it an honor to be able to greet these men and women, the young heroes of yesteryear, as they arrive in Washington, D.C., (today). I am glad that they will be able to see in person the wondrous monument to their courage and sacrifice,” said Marino.
Barletta, who said he hasn’t seen many of the memorials himself, said he’s proud to know a young person from his district took on such a project.
“(The trip is) very important,” he said. “I believe this will be very meaningful to the veterans to see a young student putting together a trip like this … I’m sure it will make the hearts of these veterans proud as well.”
Neubauer organized a pancake breakfast, an American Legion dinner-dance and other events to raise money for the trip. Between trying to manage school, a babysitting gig and having a social life, Neubauer said the senior project was quite a challenge.
To date, Neubauer has raised more than $6,200 since November toward her cause – enough for two buses to accommodate about 85 veterans and their family members, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner. She’s even planning to use excess funds to plan another trip next year.
Neubauer’s parents are Dennis and Kathy Neubauer of Mountain Top.
“If no one takes it over next year (at the school), and if Jenna goes to (college) locally, we’ll do it next year,” said Dennis.
Community outreach has been the key in garnering enough funds to allow veterans to attend the trip. Neubauer, who was even nominated for the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Community Service Award as a result of her efforts, said she was amazed by the community’s response to her project.
“The community has been great,” she said. “It shows that everyone does appreciate veterans.”
To donate to next year’s Washington, D.C., trip for veterans, contact “Vets to D.C.,” 13 Independence Road, Mountain Top, PA 18707 or visit www.vetstodc.webs.com. Checks should be made payable to Mountain Post 781.