LINDALE, TX (KLTV) - It was a journey bringing brothers-in-arms together again. Last weekend, Brookshire Grocery Company flew 38 East Texas veterans to Washington D.C. The all expenses paid trip took the men to several sites, including the World War II memorial.
It was special messages sent by East Texas elementary students that surprised the veterans.
"This one says, 'Dear Mr. Russell, thank you for serving and helping our country and me.'"
A pile of letters filled Dr. James Russell's lap, each a unique tribute.
"The last thing that my roommate and I did when we were laying in bed just with our jockey shorts on was we just read each of these letters," said Russell.
"It was pretty cool to be writing to them," said Lindale third grader, Garrett Sims, who was just one of the many Lindale students whose letters surprised each veteran on their trip to D.C. "I wanted to thank you for fighting for our country," his letter stated.
"I never thought of myself as a hero," said Russell. "I just thought it was a great tribute, I felt very fortunate to have made that contribution." Drafted in 1943, Russell Rose to an Army Corporal, mastering some of World War II's biggest guns. "If you had a good gun crew and we had a fire mission," said Russell, "A good gun crew could put a third round in a sugar barrel."
More than 60 years later...Russell's and every veteran's efforts are still remembered.
"I also wanted to tell you are awesome for risking your life for our country. Sincerely, Garrett Sims."
"They sensed what a contribution all of those who did serve to make their life easier and it was so well expressed," said Russell.
Many of the veterans say they wish to meet their pen pals face to face and thank them for remembering their contributions so many years ago.