Kathy Hawkins of Decorah loves hearing veterans' stories. Her father served during World War II, which is one reason she started leading bus trips to Washington, D.C. for veterans.
"My dad loved his country and loved the flag, and I think the think our vets have in common is that patriotism," said Kathy Hawkins.
In 2009, she volunteered for a Hawkeye Stages bus trip to D.C.
People in Williamsburg had raised money to send World War II vets on the trip, and hawkins got the idea to do the same thing in northeast Iowa.
"Northeast Iowa is a very generous community. We raised more than $26,000 to take them out," said Hawkins.
That first trip was in September 2010. World War II veteran Roy Snyder went.
Now 87, he joined the navy when he was 17 years old and was stationed on a tanker carrying fuel. Prior to the bus tour, he'd never been to D.C.
"Words can't express what you feel, what you see. It brings back a lot of memories," said Roy Snyder.
While that first trip was free to veterans, there is now a flat fee of $888.00 for the seven-day trip, which takes vets to Gettysburg and to D.C. to visit memorials, monuments, and museums. Hawkeye Stages in Decorah provides the transporation, and Hawkins serves as the guide.
"Humbling and gratifying experience. We do it to honor them. They feel honored. They're so surprised by people coming up to them in Washington and thanking them for their service," said Hawkins.
The bus trip is open to all veterans and family members of veterans. Many veterans who've gone on the trip "pay it forward." This year, Roy Snyder donated the money to buy all the vets hats.
Kathy Hawkins said she does the trip each year to honor vets for their service, but the vets said Kathy deserves a little recognition as well for making the trips possible.
"I can't thank Kathy enough," said Snyder.
The 2014 All Vets Memorial Tour is scheduled for September 16th - 22nd. Kahty Hawkins is already taking registrations. The cost is $888.00 per person.
Anyone interested in getting more information on the bus trip can contact Kathy Hawkins at 563-382-1271.