GREENFIELD — There are days speckling the calendar during which communities across the country take a moment to express their gratitude to the men and women who put everything on the line to protect their friends and neighbors. This week, groups around Greenfield did just that, gathering to pay tribute to those who fought for their country.
A role at home
As taps sounded through the gymnasium at Harris Elementary School, Tina Wasson stood as tall as she could, saluting the flag while still keeping a hand on the shoulder of her 3-year-old daughter, Abigail.Wednesday morning, as the Harris students paid tribute to their family and community members who served in the military, she was a reminded that veterans take on so many roles.
Grandparent. Neighbor. Friend.
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Wasson is a Greenfield mother of three on track to serve a 20-year career in U.S. Army. Currently, she’s a staff sergeant with one tour of duty under her belt. She deployed to Afghanistan when her oldest son, David, was just 6 months old.
David is a second-grader now at Harris, and he sneaked away from class Wednesday morning to give his mom a big hug and snap a picture with her. While Wasson, who attended the ceremony dressed in her uniform, doesn’t mind the commitment a military life takes, she’s glad her younger children haven’t known a time when Mommy was gone. It’s much easier being home, hugging David and holding Abigail’s hand.
Since David reached school age, Wasson has been coming to the Veterans Day programs his teachers host. For students at Harris, the event Wednesday to honor local heroes was pre-empted by lessons about Veterans Day, principal Jan Kehrt said. The kids learned about everything from flag etiquette to respectful conversations with those who served.
Wasson listened to the songs her son and his friends sang, shook the hands of shy kindergartners and watched as Abigail chatted with the Marine sitting next to her. She stood proudly alongside about 20 other veterans as their names were called and applause rang out.
“It’s good to know you’re appreciated,” Wasson said.
Where others understand
It happens at the same time every year.At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, members of American Legion Post 119 in Greenfield gather outside their headquarters and stand at attention while the American flag is raised. Taps plays, and the acrid smell of gunpowder fills the air after the rifle salute.
Then it’s back to normal. They head back inside, share a meal and chat about who’s playing in next weekend’s football game and who’s out with injuries.
The program lasts only a few minutes, but it’s enough time to pause, Legion Commander Colinda Walker said, to celebrate those veterans who have gathered and remember those who are no longer around.
The Legion post is a place where veterans can find support and understanding all year, said Walker, who served in the Army. Here they find people who truly know what military life is, who recognize the structure along with the sacrifice, she said.
“The military is a whole different world,” Walker said. “Everyone here understands that, and someone is here for them.”
A lasting sacrifice
Sitting in the dining room at the Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation Center, a patriotic baseball cap perched on his head, Jerry Bush beamed with pride as staffers called out his name and the room rang with appreciative applause.Bush served in the Air Force during the Korean War, the facility’s director told those gathered. Now, he’s taken up quilting, and the blanket he recently made is a nod to his military service with blocks of red, white and blue.
Bush was one of a dozen of Kindred residents honored at a Veterans Day program Tuesday afternoon. Each received a certificate, a printed poem and a quilt, handmade by Bush and a few of the women who call the facility home.
Kindred staffers planned the Veterans Day program as a way to honor the service of those residents who put their lives on the line, staff member Terry Morgan said.
The staff holds similar programs each year, Morgan said, and she wanted to help plan Tuesday’s program as a way to pay homage to her father, an Air Force veteran.
Veterans at the facility often share stories in the facility’s common room. Their hair might be grayer since their years of service, the memories might fade with age, but war tales are always the best kind, Bush said. There is still a band of brothers within the facility’s walls.
‘The least we could do’
Seated at a long white table Wednesday, Elden DeJarnett settled in for a warm meal at the Hancock County Public Library during a veterans luncheon hosted by the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce.DeJarnett served in the Army in the 1960s.For the occasion, he chose a patriotic sweatshirt to wear, a symbol of his pride and of his day off work; he typically dons a suit while working as a bailiff at the Hancock County Courthouse. With his wife on his left and a buddy at his right, he ate, laughed and chatted with other veterans and community members before being honored at the annual event.
The library is an odd place to find food, said Retta Livengood, president of the chamber.
“But it’s the least we can do,” she said. “Our schools do a great job at honoring our veterans, but as adults and business owners, we tend to forget.”
More than 100 people attended the luncheon. For Elden and Fran DeJarnett, the meal came at the end of a day popping around to different Veterans Day services in town. He favorite was listening to his granddaughter, Olivia, sing with the choir during a celebration at Greenfield Central Junior High School.
“It makes your eyes water a bit,” Elden DeJarnett said, as tears began to sparkle.