Imagine serving on a U.S. Navy destroyer in Havana during the Cuban Missile Crisis, flying 199 perilous combat missions over Vietnam, or standing watch over the coffin of President John F. Kennedy as he lay in state at the White House. These are just some of the ways military veterans at Cogir Senior Living communities have served their country and been a part of history in the making.
Our senior veterans have shown a dedication to duty, often risking their lives and showing great courage under pressure. We in turn should be dedicated to honoring their service, and ensuring that they receive the support and care they deserve, while creating an environment of camaraderie and connection.
Honoring the Service of Military Veterans and Their Stories of Dedication and Courage
Every military veteran has a unique story of service to their country. Recognizing them on holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day or the 4th of July is a wonderful way to honor these veterans and show them that their service is not forgotten. However, honoring veterans doesn’t have to be restricted to a few days a year. Some senior living communities are creating permanent tributes to honor these veterans and their service every day.
One such community is Tribute at Black Hill in Germantown, Maryland. On Memorial Day, they unveiled a permanent Wall of Honor displaying the pictures of veterans who live in their community. Veterans living in the community have served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and range in age from 80 to 97. Community resident Dr. Chuck Peck is an 84-year-old Vietnam veteran who served for 30 years as an Army surgeon. He rose from humble beginnings as the son of a steel mill worker to become a surgeon who saved the lives of wounded soldiers. After the war, he became the surgeon for former senator and presidential nominee Bob Dole.
Peck thinks the Wall of Honor is a good idea, not just to honor the veterans, but for future generations to remember their service.
“I want everybody to know that the soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guard all were putting their lives on the line for the individuals here at home, and we did it without a second thought.”
Tribute at Black Hill’s Wall of Honor
At Tribute at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Virginia, veterans were honored with a display of flags to commemorate their service. Retired Navy Commander Jim Goodwin was one of those veterans honored. Goodwin flew 199 dangerous combat missions over Vietnam as part of Operation Iron Hand. He destroyed enemy supply depots, bridges and surface-to-air missiles, but was never hit by enemy fire. He earned more than a dozen medals, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Goodwin wanted to share his story to honor those who served then, those who are serving now, and especially his friends who did not come home. When recalling that time in his life, Goodwin stated, “I was proud of what I did. Proud. I always will be.”
Veterans Recognized for Their Role in History
Veterans at Tribute at the Glen senior living community are also celebrated with a Wall of Honor for their service. Many of these veterans played a role in historic events during their time in the military. From guarding presidents to serving with decorated units during World War II or sailing into a very tense international moment of crisis, they have been first-hand participants in history.
Robert M. Lee served with the legendary Flying Tigers as part of the ground crew that supported pilots who flew risky missions over the Himalayas to bring back supplies for the war effort. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for Chinese American Veterans of World War II, and later worked for the U.S. Embassy in Burma.
Lee was surprised and honored to receive the medal. “This is the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow,” Lee said. “We waited a long time for our ceremony due to COVID-19. A major general in the Army came to my backyard and presented the medal to me, and we were also honored in December 2020 in a virtual ceremony.”
Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Roderick Morgan served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1986 as a fire control technician. His Navy career took him from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, and he served on the second-most decorated ship in the Navy, with 18 battle ribbons and commendations. One of the most significant moments he experienced was serving on a destroyer headed from Texas to Havana during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Morgan enjoyed his time in the service very much. “I was blessed with meeting my future wife because of my service!” he said. “We were set up on a blind date when I was stationed in Norfolk. We were married for 61 years.”
Clemmie Griffin served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964 and was a member of the Ceremonial Honor Guard. During his time in the Army, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Griffin was chosen to stand one of the watches over his coffin. He stated that “I consider it one of my greatest honors to have stood ‘death watch’ (midnight to 6 a.m.) over JFK as he lay in state at the White House.”
Griffin later served in the Secret Service and was part of history again as he guarded Press Secretary James Brady’s hospital room after he was injured in the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
Honoring veterans and telling their incredible stories helps them to know that their service is not forgotten. Providing the unique support and enriching environment they need as they age is another way to show veterans in senior living communities that we respect them and want to give them the kind of life they deserve.
Creating Veteran-Friendly Senior Living Communities
In addition to honoring veterans for their service, it is important to provide them with the specialized healthcare services and resources they need to achieve the highest quality of life, as well as social events that help them develop camaraderie. Activities such as workshops, veterans support groups, health fairs, and fun events can help veterans to bond over shared experiences and gain access to the care that will help them to thrive.
At Tribute at Melford senior living community, veterans are celebrated with a Wall of Honor, and they also hold a monthly event called the Vet-to-Vet Cafe, which gives veterans a chance to come together to socialize and reminisce about their military experiences. In addition to providing an opportunity for camaraderie, the Vet-to-Vet Cafe gives veterans access to important resources, such as health fairs and workshops facilitated by veteran volunteers and Promedica Hospice staff members. All area veterans and families in Prince George’s County are invited to participate in the workshops.
At Tribute at the Glen, they hold an Armed Forces Day & Alzheimer’s Longest Day Benefit Car Show each year. Armed Forces Day was created in 1949 to recognize service members in all branches of the military together on one day, showing a unification of what President Truman called “forces of our land, sea, and air defense.” Residents of Tribute at the Glen have the honor of deciding “Best in Show” among all of the cars and motorcycles on display and present the trophies to the winners. Food, music, fun, and raffles add to the celebration, and the car show registration fees are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association to help fight the disease that affects so many, including senior military veterans.
At Cadence at Olney, a Wall of Honor will be dedicated and unveiled on Veterans Day to recognize their residents who are military veterans.
“Our senior military veterans have selflessly served our country, and their stories of courage should be remembered and honored, not just a few days out of the year, but every day,” stated Executive Director Sean Connor. As a veteran himself, Connor is passionate about ensuring veterans feel welcome and cared for, and that their service is recognized. Connor continues, “Providing a nurturing senior living community for veterans where they have access to the resources they need to live a rich and healthy life, and opportunities for creating meaningful bonds and a sense of camaraderie, is a way to express our gratitude and care throughout the year.”
Resources for Senior Veterans
There are many resources available to support veterans financially if they need to make the transition to a senior living community.
The Veterans Aid and Attendance (A & A) pension – This is available through the Veterans Affairs office. It can be used to help cover the costs of residing in a senior living community. To be eligible for this benefit, a veteran must meet a few requirements, such as needing help with daily essential activities, or being housebound.
Navy Federal Credit Union – This credit union helps veterans access special benefits, such as free checking accounts, and discounts on home and personal loans. These programs can add up to thousands of dollars a month in savings for veterans, which can be an incredibly valuable asset when planning for retirement.
ElderLife Financial – This is a resource that veterans can utilize to help navigate the financial aspects of transitioning into a senior living community. ElderLife’s VA benefits experts help senior military veterans access their well-deserved benefits, and can even help with access to bridge loans, which will cover the cost of care until benefits are approved and received. In this way, senior veterans can alleviate financial strain and reduce the stressors of moving into senior living.
These resources can help alleviate financial strain for senior veterans and reduce the stressors of moving into senior living when the time comes. Our communities understand the unique challenges senior veterans often face, and our staff is available to provide guidance and resources during these times of transition. Please give us a call if you’d like to learn more; we’d love to help.
Five senior living communities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area – Tribute at One Loudoun in Ashburn, VA; Tribute at The Glen in Woodbridge, VA; Tribute at Black Hill in Germantown, MD; Tribute at Melford in Bowie, MD; and Cadence Olney in Olney, MD – are part of the Cogir Family of communities. What sets Cogir apart is the company’s devoted approach to creating healthy, vibrant communities that offer residents exceptional independent living, assisted living and memory care lifestyle options. Cogir Senior Living develops, owns and/or operates 60 lifestyle communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.Cogirseniorliving.com.