MORRIS – Bob Boyle’s eyes grew wide and welled with tears Tuesday as VFW members honored the local veteran, and others, at a special presentation.
“Our veterans will never forget what they have done for their country, and neither will we,” said Charlie Brown, post commander of St. Juvin Post 1336 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in his speech. “We thank you for your service.”
The VFW surprised veterans at local senior facilities Tuesday with gifts and special presentations. Each senior received a large blanket, personalized with his or her name and military emblem, and local VFW members personally thanked each senior.
Fifteen veterans at Morris Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, five veterans at Park Pointe Senior Living in Morris and 10 veterans at Walnut Grove Village in Morris were presented with blankets. Several more veterans were recognized, but were unable to attend Tuesday’s presentations.
The blankets were wrapped as Christmas presents and opened at the same time after the VFW presented them.
Many of the seniors were moved to tears by the unexpected gifts.
“This has been a secret among the activities staff for over a month,” said Kathy Gill, activities aide at Morris Healthcare & Rehabilitation.
Brown said the St. Juvin Post 1336 gave out 92 blankets to local veterans living in senior homes this year, which was the first year for the program. Brown said the post visited facilities in Dwight and South Wilmington, as well.
“We do a program almost every year, but it’s not always the same thing,” Brown said. “Last year what we did for veterans in local nursing homes was put $50 into each one of their trust accounts.”
The VFW has been giving similar blankets to its own senior members for several years, Brown said, but decided to extend the program to all local seniors after seeing its success. Brown said the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Most of them are amazed,” Brown said. “Nobody really remembers their service. We do a better job today than we used to about recognizing them. Still, I don’t think they always get the recognition they deserve.”
Brown said most of the seniors honored Tuesday were advanced-age veterans, meaning they served in either World War II or the Korean War.
Some of the seniors said they will display their blankets, but not Park Pointe resident and Army veteran Marty Runestad.
“I’m going to use mine. It’s the perfect time of year for it,” Runestad said. “I had no idea this was coming. It is really nice to be remembered.”
Brown said the program was so successful this year, the post hopes to raise enough money to do it on a larger scale in the coming years.
“Next year, if we’re really ambitious, we want to give one everyone in the Manteno Veterans’ Home or another local veterans facility,” Brown said. “We just need to raise enough money.”