Every day is Veterans Day in our world,” said Kelly Odegaard, vice president of Operations and Veterans Services, Westcare Healthcare Management, Salem, Ore., who operates two senior care centers in his state.

“Veterans Day is a holiday vacation day off in a lot of places, but not here,” he joked.

His team and residents are excitedly preparing for upcoming events, including a parade nearby in Albany, Ore., that is known to be the largest held west of the Mississippi River. This year’s celebration is the 25th annual and will be the first held in-person since the pandemic.

Odegaard brings his community’s 14-passenger van and a string of classic collectible cars to ride in the parade, including a Harley-Davidson honor bike that is decorated fully in support of Veterans.

The parade route is typically lined five- to 10-people deep along the road, said Odegaard, who live-streams the event back to his communities (one in Lebanon, Ore., and one in The Dalles, Ore.) so that those who can’t attend can still enjoy it.

At the Lebanon center, there’s a hefty lineup of activities. Gnomenuts Hot Donuts will be providing free donuts and coffee for Veterans. The decorated Harley-Davidson motorcycle will take a few more laps in a post-parade “drive by.” The Oregon State University ROTC joins the center for a special medals ceremony and then stays for an ROTC Happy Hour by the fire pit with live music.

At The Dalles location, there’s a Klickitat Veterans Celebration, with a luncheon and festivities focused on Vets from that tribe, which is based in Washington state. It features live music, special refreshments, games, and prizes.

Local schools provide handmade thank-you cards that are presented to all the Veterans. Veterans’ banners are displayed downtown that highlight the Oregon Veterans Homes.

Additionally, a special meal from the food and nutrition department will be served—this year it will provide steaks.

Odegaard’s Veterans Homes are larger than the average U.S. Veterans homes that house about 80 Veterans. The capacity at The Dalles center is 151 with 96 occupants. The capacity at the Albany center is 154 with 134 occupants.

Maine Veterans’ Homes to Print 40th Annual Resident Calendar

Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH) has its eyes on Vets year-round, culminating in its production of an annual calendar that highlights its great residents.

MVH is a gold quality award level provider with roughly 625 residents in its six homes located throughout Maine, in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough, and South Paris.

Each year, in time for the Veterans Day holiday, it produces a full-color, full-year calendar that features the life stories of 12 of its residents (two Veterans are chosen from each center).

This year represents the 40th anniversary of the calendar, and it again plans a print run of 10,000. Copies are provided to all residents and their families as well as Veterans services groups and the public.

“It’s so popular that we start getting requests for it in September,” said Christine M. Henson, Communications Manager, MVH. MVH also produces a digital copy available on its website at https://mainevets.org/calendar/.

On Veterans Day, MVH hosts a service where prayers are recited, and Vets and their families gather for a celebration with music and a local color guard. Many also participate in civic parades as the home is located along the parade route. Residents also enjoy gift cards and baked goods, decorated in a Veterans Day motif.

“The entire day is very heartwarming,” Henson said. “The residents really look forward to it.”

Massachusetts’ Elder Services

Frank Romano is a Vietnam Veteran and owner of Massachusetts-based Elder Services.
He served in 1968-69 and knows first-hand how important Veterans Day is to anyone who served in the military.

“These are the people we have to respect, but it’s easier said than done,” Romano said. “Veterans Day, in my opinion, has too much become another retail holiday; but it means so much to the Vets.”

Romano said his centers “go all out” to honor them, including inviting members of Congress to his facilities. To ensure the guests can attend, Romano typically schedules his celebrations the Tuesday before Veterans Day to better fit into the Congress members’ busy schedules. Romano sets up tents outside and invites a variety of other speakers to address his enthusiastic crowds.

Paul Bergeron is a freelance writer based in Herndon, Va.  ​