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John Vernon Peterson - Thanking veterans on Memorial Day

Starla Pointer file photo/News-Register
On Memorial Day last year, Glenn Smith, John Vernon Peterson and Connie Smith visit with a veteran living at Life Care Center in McMinnville, where Connie works as a nurse. The McMinnville Elks organize the visits each year.
Starla Pointer file photo/News-Register
On Memorial Day last year, Glenn Smith, John Vernon Peterson and Connie Smith visit with a veteran living at Life Care Center in McMinnville, where Connie works as a nurse. The McMinnville Elks organize the visits each year.
Guest writer John Vernon Peterson of McMinnville has a master’s degree in business from George Fox University. He served in the U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve for 20 years. With AMVETS, he serves on the National Executive Committee as finance officer for the state of Oregon and as post adjutant of Post 1993. He is a member of the American Legion, the VFW, Knights off Columbus and the Elks.
Guest writer John Vernon Peterson of McMinnville has a master’s degree in business from George Fox University. He served in the U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve for 20 years. With AMVETS, he serves on the National Executive Committee as finance officer for the state of Oregon and as post adjutant of Post 1993. He is a member of the American Legion, the VFW, Knights off Columbus and the Elks.

Many things may come to mind regarding the Memorial Day holiday. It may be remembered as a shopping holiday, or a day off for some employees. However, its purpose was to recognize our nation’s military veterans.

The Elks lodge offers this reminder to its Veterans Committee: “As long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will remember them!”

The committee makes an effort to visit local veterans living in care homes, particularly on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and around Christmastime.

We bring them a simple thank-you card to show appreciation for their service to our country, flags and socks or some other necessary item.

We always say, “Thank you for your service to our country!” Often, we mention our gratitude for their courage and tell them if we served ourselves.

Some veterans, who have never before been thanked for their service, shed a few tears. Thanking people for their service was not always the practice in our country. Sometimes, these veterans do not have any family members who visit.

Hoss Hostetler started the visits when he was chairing the local Elks’ first Veterans Committee. Subsequent chairpersons Arlene Stricker and now Priscilla Morton have continued the tradition.

Typically, members of the committee and volunteers gather at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day and travel to facilities where the county’s veterans are known to reside. On occasion, Starla Pointer and a photographer from the News-Register accompany us.

After the visits, we gather at the Vets Club — the American Legion Hall in McMinnville — for lunch. We enjoy making a day of it and hope we have touched the lives of older veterans who might not remember Memorial Day on their own.

While the visits affect others positively, they also are rewarding to me personally, and have been for the past 20 years. To look each veteran straight in the eye, shake his or her hand and say thank you for your service is an experience I highly recommend and would not trade.

I would miss these visits if we could not continue them. Unfortunately, each year we find fewer veterans to visit, but it makes me feel good to make the attempt.

I believe older people probably remember our veterans more than younger people. Veterans have become a minority, comprising only 6 to 7 percent of the population, so perhaps they are not as well known. And today, only about 1 percent of our nation’s population serves in a military capacity, whether on active duty or in the National Guard or Army Reserve. Remembering their service and sacrifices on special days seems the least we can do.

It always moves me on these days when I pass over a McMinnville bridge and see the beautiful flags representing the United States of America as well as the Prisoners of War/Missing In Action flags guarding both sides of the bridge. I used to help put those flags up and take them down. Once a little girl asked me, “What is POW/MIA?” She had heard the acronym, but had no idea what it meant. Now, local Naval Sea Cadets take responsibility for bridge flag displays.

All the veterans’ service organizations do good work. Active locally are the AMVETS (American Veterans), American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

To sum up, please remember that Memorial Day was intended to honor veterans. Do yourself and veterans a favor, and thank them for their service to our country. Whether they are in a senior facility or not, they will appreciate the recognition.

And please pass this information on to children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Quote President Calvin Coolidge: “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” Ask them to never forget the POW/MIA and their families.

For the sake of the United States, it’s crucial to pass on the lessons we have learned to our young people.

Guest writer John Vernon Peterson of McMinnville has a master’s degree in business from George Fox University. He served in the U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve for 20 years. With AMVETS, he serves on the National Executive Committee as finance officer for the state of Oregon and as post adjutant of Post 1993. He is a member of the American Legion, the VFW, Knights off Columbus and the Elks.

 

CUTLINES

Starla Pointer file photos/News-Register

On Memorial Day last year, Glenn Smith, John Vernon Peterson and Connie Smith visit with a veteran living at Life Care Center in McMinnville, where Connie works as a nurse. The McMinnville Elks organize the visits each year.

 

Starla Pointer file photos/News-Register

Priscilla Morton of Amity and Dianne Hays-Hatch and John Vernon Peterson, both of McMinnville, thank a veteran at Oakwood Country Place, McMinnville, on Memorial Day, 2013. Hays-Hatch and Peterson are veterans, too.

 

Flag retirement event

The Elks lodge in McMinnville also conducts a Flag Day celebration and retirement ceremony each June. This year, the event will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12, at the lodge, 333 N.E. Evans St.

Flag Day actually falls on Saturday, June 14, a busy summer weekend, which precludes the flag ceremony. The lodge officially honorably retires all flags brought in as long as a statement telling where and when it was flown is clipped to the flag. Its history will be announced during the ceremony.

When the red or blue colors are faded, the white is dirty, or the flag is torn or weathered, it is time to retire it. Also, according to the U.S. Flag Code, flags flown at night must be illuminated. For more information, call the lodge at 503-472-1283.

 

 

 

 

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