For the past 30 years, Korean War veteran Bob Carew has been a member of the American Legion. As a Legion member, he's collected stray balls from the nearby Little League park, volunteered with the Legion and celebrated Veterans Day with his fellow veterans at the post's hall.
"They went and they fought for this country, and they laid their life on the line," Carew, 73, said as he was walking his 3-year-old dog Benny.
About 50 people celebrated Veterans Day with a luncheon last Saturday, at the American Legion hall on Oak Street. A handful of veterans came from three area nursing homes, and veterans attending the luncheon represented all the wars from World War II to the Persian Gulf War.
"They are the history of this fine land they enjoy," said Deputy Cmdr. George Lussier, thanking the World War II and Korean War veterans in a speech during the luncheon.
Over a lunch of piping hot meat loaf, mashed potatoes, peas and pumpkin pie, old friends got together and swapped stories. The luncheon program started with the song "God Bless America" and ended with the recognition of veterans who came from the nursing homes. In between was a performance by the Celebration Singers, a group of women who sang World War II ditties while dressed in costume.
LUSSIER thanked each group of veterans from the different wars. "I'd like to start by thanking you for giving so many sacrifices — you, your spouses, your families," he said to the World War II veterans in the room.
To the Korean War vets, he said, "I'd like to thank you for preserving those freedoms, not just for our country but for other countries."
Lussier then thanked the Vietnam and Gulf War vets, some of whom, Lussier said, faced struggles when they returned home to a lukewarm, if not hostile, reception.
After the luncheon, some of the veterans waited outside for the nursing-home bus to pick them up.
"The post personnel conducted themselves in the best way to serve the veterans," said Col. Glenn Irving. Irving, who is 89, was originally a schoolteacher, who was drafted in the first round of drafts for World War II. His draft number was 313. After he returned from the war, he had a career in hospital management and was the executive officer of the Valley Forge General Hospital. His wife of 60 years also attended the luncheon.
In front of Irving was 86-year-old Connor Harry Archer. When asked why citizens should observe Veterans Day, he replied, "To commemorate the dead and the dying." Then when asked his age, he said, "25." The nursing-home attendant behind him laughed, to which he insisted with a straight face, "What's so funny?"
Regardless of what war the veterans belong to or whether they're wheelchair bound, all agreed that Veterans Day should get the respect of all citizens.
"It is a unified and unique opportunity for the people to express their appreciation to the veterans," said Otho William Helm. The 80-year-old was a gunner mate on battleships and submarines in World War II. He's also a Pearl Harbor survivor. "I think it's a day that should be very sacred to all Americans who exist now. And I don't think the veterans particularly expect it or require it, but I know they appreciate it."