I spend some of my free time doing volunteer work at the local veterans center and it has proven to be a wonderful experience that has helped me improve physically and mentally.
I am very limited in what I can do due to disability caused by a stroke on August 19, 2014 so I am not much help but I do what I can. The staff there are wonderful people who respect and love the residents. Yesterday we had a group session they call “The Learning Circle”. Residents, staff, and volunteers gather to discuss topics of interest, with everyone able to speak freely. There were 3 staff members, 3 volunteers, and 6 residents attending this meeting that lasted nearly 2 hours. This was my first time attending and I learned a great deal. One of the things I had seen in action but had not realized the full effect of was what two of the residents called the loving attitude of the staff, a comment that was quickly agreed to by the other residents in attendance. I have often witnessed the staff dealing with sometimes difficult residents and have been very impressed but didn’t realize until yesterday the full impact of their selfless devotion to the happiness and well being of the residents. I have also had a lot of contact with family of residents and all of them I have met are very pleased with the quality of the care provided to their loved one. Many times wives, children, or grandchildren will eat with the resident. Family members pay to eat but it is a flat cost for the food.
The building is magnificent and second in quality only to the wonderful people who work there. One comment made and seconded by staff members is how much they respect and enjoy the residents and how much they enjoy coming to work every day. There is a marvelous physical rehabilitation room with a therapy staff to match. The employees take care of all of the resident needs, from bathing to laundry to feeding to cleaning the rooms to taking them on outings. The residents are taken to Wal-Mart to shop, to the local casinos for those who like to go, and other field trips of interest. A couple of weeks ago the activities department took those who were interested to a “fly-in” at the Will Rogers birth place in nearby Oologah. There were 130 private planes, including two WWI bi-plane fighters complete with machine guns mounted in front of the cockpit, along with antique cars, and motorcycles. It was a fun trip with opportunity to go around and see the craft up close. There are also daily activities including checker and domino tournaments weekly and bingo several times a week. Local churches provide 3 services on Sundays and there are bible studies and music several times a week. One of the residents plays the guitar and leads interested residents in singing songs of praise to God. My wife works at a ranch with wild mustangs and Bert Ellard, director of volunteer services and one of the activities department staff, arranged with her for a field trip to take residents out to see the horses up close.
The residents are also transported to any medical appointments that can’t be taken care of “in-house”. The center has a medical staff of doctors, nurses, LPNs(Licensed Practical Nurses), CNAs(Certified Nurse Aides), and other titles that I am not familiar with. There is a ward for veterans with Alzheimer’s and various stages of dementia. There is also a staff of social workers who help the residents deal with the red tape and the nightmare that is the federal bureaucratic system. The center has residents, male and female, from 90+ year old WWII vets to 60+ year old Vietnam veterans, and may have some from more recent conflicts that I am not aware of. I have only been volunteering there for 4 months so there is much I don’t know yet. Although I am extremely limited physically and only marginally helpful, the staff treats me like I am the most valuable asset they have and all of the residents I interact with have been wonderful. I am a veteran also, having served in the Army Special Forces from 1968 to 1971, but I am still able to live independently thanks to a merciful God and a wonderful wife who is the love of my life and a selfless caregiver.
The privilege of spending time with this assortment of exquisite and wonderful people is something everyone should be able to experience in their lifetime. The experiences of the veterans are very interesting and enlightening. It is amazing how sharp the minds of people in their 90’s are and how appreciative they are of the smallest act of assistance on my part. One WWII veteran was a machine gunner on a PBY, a patrol bomber seaplane designed for use in anti-submarine warfare and reconnaissance, and was often used in the sea rescue of downed pilots or survivors of sunken ships. There are others from every aspect of the military and all of them spent part or all of their working lives in service to liberty. No finer group of people can be found anywhere, residents or staff.
With all of the graft, corruption, waste, and incompetence that has been revealed about the Veterans’ Administration it is easy to look at the entire organization as bad but I can personally attest to the high standards and quality of the organization and people in Claremore, Oklahoma. Those who have served our nation with courage, honor, and dedication are being served in Claremore by people of equal quality, some of them also veterans as is the case with Bert Ellard, who served in the Navy. All of the bad things I am aware of come from bureaucrats in Washington, D C (De Cesspool) who are strictly bureaucrats without contact with those they are supposed to serve and with no repercussions if they are corrupt or incompetent. The situation on the ground is different and the people are of much higher quality, which says all that needs to be said about keeping decisions and control as close as possible to the citizens who need the “service”. The farther up the bureaucratic ladder they get, the less useful they are to the “grassroots” organization that actually works with the veterans. So when you read or hear of the corruption and incompetence remember that your local center administration and staff, wherever it may be, is likely more victim than perpetrator so give them the benefit of the doubt unless you have firsthand knowledge to the opposite.
I submit this in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, in faith, with the responsibility given to me by Almighty God to honor His work and not let it die from neglect.
August 28, 2015