Veteran Memories Embedded

Just looking at Roy’s grandson, Isaac, tears me up!   WIth the permission of the family, I was moved to write about Roy, Jerry’s roommate.

Roy is such a quiet an gentle man who’s emotional and sensitive spirit is quite intact whenever those buttons are pushed.  In fact, all I have to do is say, “Hi Roy.  I think your family is coming today.”  Then he reaches out his hand and begins to cry.  He dearly loves and misses his family.  He and Jerry are a perfect match.

Friday was a day to celebrate and honor all the veterans who served this country.   This celebration wasn’t held with blaring bands or flag parades on footballs fields.  This celebration was sweet and intimate.  The tables were set in red, white, and blue with little flags and sparkles as centerpieces.  Each veteran was dressed in their best with a crafty red felt boutonniere that was handmade with love.  The wonderful thing is that the Alzheimer patients are intermingled with those seniors who are “with it”.  There is not a person there who does not feel that they are a part of the family.  They are a community.

The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance.   I will admit that it was over and done with before I could even get Jerry to put down his spoon.  (Never let anything get in the way of that spoon!)  Anyway, the activity director gave a short speech of appreciation and began moving around the room, introducing the veteran.  She interviewed each one and ended each with a round of applause.  I was amazed at how many women had served.  Several of them for 30years.

When she got to Roy, she walked over and got down on her knees.  Roy sat quietly in his wheelchair.  She asked Roy what his branch of service was.  He softly said, “Marines”. She thoughtfully asked him what war he served in...he said, "World War I” and began to cry.  She placed her arm around him and her other hand on his hand and expressed to him how much we appreciated his sacrifice.  Roy actually served in World War II, however, those memories obviously were so deeply embedded in his heart, that he became overwhelmed with emotion.  Roy was awarded the Purple Heart.

So often, we think that those affected with Alzheimer disease, do not know what is going on.  Their blank distant stares and seemingly uninterested countenance leads us to think that they are “not there.”  However, when we slow down, take the time, look deep into their eyes, there IS something there.  Sometimes I think WE are the ones with the problem...that we don’t take the time to connect.  They are so easily discarded.

Lest you think the Veterans ceremony was a total wasn’t.  The director finished up with a lighthearted WWII trivia quiz.   Did you know that the attack on Pearl Harbor was only two hours?   And in those two hours, over 2000 people were killed.   These seniors knew their history......and as one remarked, “That’s because we lived it!”.

All the residents served in WWII or Korea, accept Jerry, who served during Viet Nam. Jerry’s eyes lit up when I mentioned Ft. Brag and Ft. Benning and he clapped after each recognition.  So maybe he did understand some of the ceremony.  One thing for sure....after the hour was over and the pudding was all gone, Jerry was done.  And as I was snapping Roy’s picture and and meeting Isaac, I looked around and saw Jerry  ..... like the good ole days... the service was over, he had loosened his tie, and he was ready to go.