I had the privilege of attending the Thanksgiving Day event at the Claremore Veterans Center this year and was both pleased and impressed with the atmosphere and meal I experienced. There were about a dozen people volunteering in the dining room, people that gave up the bulk of their day to help provide a very pleasant day for men and women who spent anywhere from 2 years to an entire adult career serving in the armed forces of the United States of America. Residents of the center span from World War II to the early Gulf War conflicts. All of the residents are there because they either have needs the families can’t meet or have no family to take care of them. There were many family members, friends, and relatives in attendance on Thanksgiving Day and all seemed to enjoy it very much. I don’t know how many were served but both the dining room and the auditorium were packed with residents and guests for several hours. I don’t know the names of the people who came to serve nor do I know the names of any organizations they were affiliated with but they were wonderful and deserve a great deal of thanks for giving up their day to do so much for our heroes.

The dietary and recreation staffs did a wonderful job of making it a day of honor for people who are very deserving of honor from all of us. Many of the administrative staff also came in on a day off to assist in making it a good day and they are worthy of our thanks also. I can’t begin to express my feelings towards the employees at the center. They come to work every day with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. I have heard many of them say that working there is more of a privilege than a job. I know there must be times that it gets tedious for them because they are human and have human emotions and feelings but all I have seen from any of them is a joy of being a part of that family and having the privilege of caring for veterans. Being a facility dedicated to older and mostly infirm people has its downside as patients die on a regular basis, causing sadness, but those who pass away are soon replaced with fresh faces that the employees and volunteers quickly come to love. The entire facility was decked out in Thanksgiving decorations that were both beautiful and festive. Those decorations have been taken down and are being replaced with Christmas decorations. On December 1 there was a Christmas party sponsored by NOVA, the Northern Oklahoma Veterans Association, that included food, deserts, punch, and music from a couple that performed country music including several selections from Johnny Cash and June Carter. The man also did several selections from the Elvis Presley collection, delighting all in attendance. The event lasted from 1:30 until 3:00 p. m. and was a wonderful time for all. Once again the recreation staff excelled in providing a good time for the residents.

It is such an honor and privilege for me to be included in the various events at the center. I missed this year’s Halloween Trick or Treat event because I helped at an event at church on that same night. I wish I could have been twins that night because I really enjoyed the Trick or Treat event in 2015. I was told there were in excess of 600 children that attended this year and that it was also a great evening for the residents. There are several Christmas events scheduled and the center staff members are already hard at work to make the Christmas season a wonderful one for the residents. With all of the negative stories I have seen about the Veterans Administration under Barack Obama I can say from my own eyewitness account that those issues are not evident at the Claremore facility. I have been told by residents and family members that this facility is one of the best in the nation. I believe it because it would be very hard to top the quality of the building and the staff here. There are 7 VA retirement center facilities in Oklahoma plus 2 VA hospitals. I can’t imagine any facility of any kind, anywhere being able to provide better people to care for veterans. Building quality is easier to match as design and quality of building are relatively easy to attain but finding so many people of such quality for honor, integrity, and love for others is more difficult to attain. I salute both the employees and the administrators who hire and manage them because quality in any group must start at the top and the high quality in this group goes from the very top through the entire group. There are doctors, registered nurses, Licenses Practical Nurses, Certified Nurse Aides, Personal Care Aides, Housekeepers, Maintenance people, Therapists, Social Workers, various dietary and laundry personnel, as well as a fine recreation staff. All of these people work together to provide the residents with as much of an at home atmosphere as possible, doing a wonderful job of showing honor, respect, and love to men and women who so richly deserve it.

I know it isn’t always easy because I have seen residents behave in ways that are from rude to downright mean but the employees always shake it off and respond in a way that shows the quality of their character and their love for the residents. Some of the residents suffer from mental issues that range from frustration with their disabilities to general anger or even more serious issues. The problems I see as the result of bad behavior by residents are quite rare considering that there are 302 of them with infirmities that range from relatively minor walking or balance issues to amputees and people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, or other neurological problems. Overall, considering the scope of resident disabilities, I find them to be of very high quality also. The oldest is a 102 year old former nurse in World War II with the youngest one I know of being 49. He is recovering from a stroke that affected his right side. He can walk by himself and use his arm but both limbs show the effects of a stroke. I have found that the residents deal with their disabilities quite well and really appreciate the employees and the work they do to provide a good environment. Associating with such high quality people makes me appreciate very much the blessings God has bestowed on me and my family and inspires me to live better and to try to give of myself when and where I can. It is truly an honor to be allowed to be around these fine people on a regular basis.   If interested you can learn more about the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs by clicking on this link.

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.

Bob Russell

Claremore, Oklahoma

December 6, 2016

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Bob Russell

Graduated from Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in May, 1968. Enlisted in the U S Army on December 11, 1968, serving 3 years in the 7th Special Forces Group as a Heavy Weapons Expert, attaining the rank of Sgt. E 5. upon separation went to work at Southwestern Bell Telephone on January 17, 1972 and retired on August 31, 2003. Also spent 1 year on active reserve as a member of the 14th Special Forces Group. attaining the rank of Staff Sgt. E6. started and operated a business installing wiring for telephone, data, and video surveillance systems from October 2003 until December 2011. Suffered a debilitating stroke on August 19, 2014. Now recovering and doing volunteer work at the Claremore, Oklahoma Veterans Center. Attends church in Claremore at CedarPoint and LifeChanger churches. Married to wife Marsha since August 2, 1989 with 4 daughters and a deceased son, 12 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

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