Madison County Vets to DC trip cancelled

(Posted May 12, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The inaugural Madison County Vets to DC trip has been cancelled. Plans are in the works to try again next year.

Headed up by Terry Mackey, a West Jefferson resident and retired Marine, the trip was scheduled for Sept. 11-13. Its purpose was to provide local military veterans with an all-expenses-paid trip to visit the war memorials in Washington D.C. A total of 25 veterans had signed up to take part.

Mackey and other members of the organizing committee chose to cancel the event due to concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Chief among them was the health and safety of the veterans.

“We have weighed the pros and cons of moving forward with our trip… but considering that our veterans are in a higher health risk group, we have decided to cancel this year’s trip,” wrote Dana Bartoe, Madison County Vets to DC secretary in a letter to participating veterans.

She noted that many of the travel companions and volunteers who planned to take part also are at higher risk of contracting the virus, either due to age or health issues.

Furthermore, social distancing would not be possible on the bus or at the memorials, she wrote. Unknowns played a factor in the decision to cancel, as well.

“If we pay the required reservation fees for the bus and hotels, we may not receive a total refund (if we cancel the trip at a later date),” Bartoe explained. “And at this time, no one is sure what hotels, businesses, restaurants, etc., in D.C. will be open or how they will be doing business.”

Additionally, Mackey was recently diagnosed with throat cancer and will be undergoing treatment this summer. He and his wife, Kathie, have been the driving force behind the Vets to DC project.

Over the past year, the Mackeys, with the help of their fellow committee members, raised the $20,000 needed to cover the cost of the trip for participating veterans. The group is offering to return funds to any donors who want their money back. To date, no donors have taken the group up on that offer, Bartoe said. All donations will remain in the non-profit’s coffers to be used next year.

Dates for next year’s trip have not been set, though Bartoe predicts the group will once again aim for September. The 25 veterans who signed up for this year’s trip will have first dibs on the 2021 trip.

Bartoe reiterated that the decision to forego this year’s trip was difficult.

“But our veterans mean the world to us, and we would not knowingly put them in harm’s way. They have already been in harm’s way when they answered the call to serve and protect our country,” she said.

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