Acts of Service: Veterans Day calls us to look ahead

A moment of laughter, amidst a solemn occasion, dramatized the new reality of Veterans Day.

While looking at history, and treasuring the service and sacrifice of our veterans, it is important to look ahead, to know what the future holds for a nation that needs to do more to serve those who served — our veterans.

Tom Mann of Oregon Veterans Administration provided that moment of humor when he related the story of a Pacific Ocean naval combat veteran who had two boats shot out from under him in World War II — and only this year requested help from the VA. Mann spoke at Sunday’s Hood River Veteran’s Day service.

“He had sat 17 days in the water, and he wanted hearing aids. I asked his wife, ‘Does he have any trouble sleeping or intrusive thoughts?’ and she said, ‘Are you kidding? I haven’t slept with him since 1949.’”

When the laughter subsided, Mann added, “Her reason was he was thrashing around having nightmares about being in the water with the oil and the fire and the sharks — and he wanted hearing aids. We got him squared away, 65 years later.”

World War II veterans are seeking help for the first time, veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afthanistan are experiencing serious health, social and economic troubles, and people currently enlisted are soon to be coming home in large numbers.

Mann said there are 331,000 veterans in the state; 80,000 of them have used the VA. That’s 250,000 Oregon veterans who don’t have any benefits.

“They never sought them, don’t get them. Can you imagine that? We’ve gotta do a better job, right? Our brothers and sisters are out there and they need our help,” Mann said.

He calls it “the tip of the iceberg,” because the government will release a million veterans in the next five years as they military downsizes.

“We are expecting 30,000 Oregonians to come home. It’s an absolute tsunami coming our way. But I always like to say there’s opportunity in crisis and chaos, because for us, what’s really cool about this generation is they’re coming and they’re seeking.”

Also on Sunday, Down Manor residents gathered in the lobby and enjoyed a decorated cake while hearing memories of war from a number of their fellow residents. With photos, letters and spoken stories, the gathering gave residents, family members and staff the chance to share and to show interest and concern for the experiences of those in their midst.

One woman said she had three family members who served in the military: her husband was in a Navy torpedo bomber unit and was shot down, and an uncle also served in World War II.

“When my son went to Vietnam, you know where my heart was,” she said.

Perhaps the best way to understand the past and future challenges of our veterans is to learn veterans’ stories. You can do that by talking to friends or neighbors who have served, or by arranging to visit veterans at the Oregon Veterans Home in The Dalles (visits by fellow veterans are particularly helpful). Veterans and widows of veterans on hospice care may also enjoy a visit.

The Veterans Services office is always in need of volunteers to assist with paperwork.

It’s about looking back but also looking forward as a nation still at war adjusts to the future challenge of helping those whose service we must always remember and those whose needs we must now anticipate.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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