The Salvation Army remembers
A pianist played slowly, starting with just a few measures of the classic and patriotic song “You’re A Grand Old Flag.”
Someone began singing the words. Then another person joined in, and then another. Soon the entire audience inside the chapel was singing boldly.
On Aug. 5 in The Salvation Army’s chapel at Camp Ladore in Waymart, Pa., a special service to honor veterans was underway. It was attended by seniors and was happening in the middle of a week reserved just for them. Their day included a flea market, a classic car and motorcycle show, ’50s music, a community lunch, and pontoon boat rides.
Also available were Ladore’s pool and patio, complete with a picturesque view of the mountains.
“Today when the veterans walked in, there were tears in our eyes,” says Shirley Thompson, who attended the service and lives in Easton, Pa.
Among the seniors who shook hands with the veterans was Salvationist Eleanor Roskilly, who attends the Bethlehem, Pa., Corps and has been a soldier for 40 years.
“To [the veterans] it’s pride and joy and we show pride back to them,” she says.
The tradition of honoring veterans on this day began a year after the 2001 terrorists attacks, says Barbara Korteling, director of sales at Ladore and the event’s 13–year organizer.
“It just seemed like we needed to do something as an organization to thank the veterans for everything they’ve done for us,” she says.
“I would say the day is a spiritual day. We’re grateful to God for all the blessings He has given us, such as this beautiful, free country we live in.”
The first year, the event started with only 25 people.
“I think we had five cars,” Korteling recalls. “It was really small. But since then, every year it has grown.”
This year, the event drew 500 people from northeastern Pennsylvania, including many veterans from the local Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals, as well as members from local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapters.
“It’s a really good time for the veterans to have a little camaraderie and to reminisce,” Korteling says.
James English, a resident of Lake Ariel, Pa., and a deputy commander of Pennsylvania’s District 15 of the American Legion, recalls Korteling telling him how back in 2002 The Salvation Army wanted to do something for veterans.
“I said, ‘You’re the lady I’m looking for.’ We went in and sat down and that’s how we got this started,” he says.
English had no war stories as did many of the other men at the event, but, during his military days, he did meet two Commanders–In–Chief. He worked security aboard the White House helicopters serving presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
“It was good duty,” he says. “A little extra pay. It was better than being a grunt.”
English helped unload the buses that came to Camp Ladore carrying men from the area’s VA hospitals.
“They’re locked up there at the VA hospital and this is a chance to get out,” English says. “They get out of there and get to do something. They’re able to talk to somebody
and share war stories.”
‘They never forget this’
Scottie Ogden, a resident of South Canaan, Pa., who served in the Marine Air Corps during World War II, said he was pleased to see so many hospitalized veterans attend.
“These guys really appreciate it,” he says. “They’re stuck down there in the hospital and this is a good day out. They get good treatment and they never forget this. They talk with each other, they have something in common, they bond, and later, they have a meal. This is great.”
One of those men was Gordon Whitsitt, a Vietnam veteran and a former Air Force paramedic who injured his spine on duty and is now confined to a wheelchair.
“We get support here and we recognize it,” Whitsitt says. “It’s a good activity.”
Marian Skomsky, a recreation therapist at the VA hospital in Wilkes–Barre, Pa., escorted Whitsitt and six other veterans.
“It’s just about showing our recognition and appreciation for the veterans,” she says. “It’s a beautiful area, a beautiful place, and a beautiful day. Who could ask for more? There’s sunshine and trees and nature and a lot of good people.”
John O’Connor Jr., commander of American Legion Post 807 in Hamlin, Pa., agreed.
The speaker for the afternoon service was Stan Pratt, a Vietnam War photographer. The Honesdale, Pa., resident called the event “fabulous” and also enjoyed seeing the veterans get a day.
“This gives these men the ability to come, to talk to their peers, to meet other people on the outside, and to associate with veterans from all the conflicts [and wars] that we have had,” he says.
A solemn time
The service concluded with prayer. Salvation Army chaplains were on hand to mingle and to pray with veterans who asked for such assistance.
“I think this is a great way to show respect for those who served our nation,” says Major Glenn Snyder, a Salvation Army officer and Camp Ladore’s administrator. “It’s also an opportunity for a number of the local veterans groups to come together. People in the community tell us how much they enjoy this and are grateful that we do this for the veterans.”
Majors Bob and Kathy Myers were the chaplains for the week. Kathy said the event “could have results that we may never see.”
Marie Stern, a resident of Philadelphia who once lived at The Salvation Army’s Markle Residence in New York City, was impressed by the service.
“The Salvation Army to me is a wonderful organization,” she says. “They do so much for people. I can vouch for it. They should have this everywhere for veterans.”
Taking it all in
Veterans from all branches of the service walked the grounds to take in the flea market and the classic cars and motorcycles.
Among those strolling hand–in–hand and wearing their U.S. Army hats were veterans Robert and Gladys Cunningham of Stroudsburg, Pa. Both served during World War II, when Gladys was a nurse.
“I think it’s very nice to get this recognition after all these years, considering it was World War II,” Robert says. “We’re pretty well vintage.”
Gladys wasn’t the only female veteran on hand, as Joan Chapman of Wilburton, Pa., toured the flea market. She was a photographer in the Navy during the Korean War.
Old cars, old times
“It’s a wonderful event and I come up every year,” she says. “We should honor our veterans a lot more.”
Mary Kyler of Williamsport, Pa., said her husband, Ralph, was in the military during World War II and loved The Salvation Army.
“This event is wonderful, but The Salvation Army has always done good things for people,” she says. My husband was in the Marine Corps and said The Salvation Army was wonderful to all the troops.”
World War II veteran Frank Carra and his wife, Dolores, showed off their 1933 Ford—decked out with American flags—during the car show.
“We need the veterans and we need God,” Dolores says.
The community lunch drew a huge crowd in the dining hall at Ladore.
Werner Korteling, a member of American Legion Post 807 in Hamlin, Pa., who was in the Navy during Korea and Vietnam, said he remembers past events where the veterans were served thick pork chops.
“They looked like a bunch of kids around a Christmas tree waiting for the presents to be opened,” he says. “They really appreciate this.”
War stories abound
Joseph Tunis, a resident of Lake Ariel, Pa., who served in the Pacific during World War II, said The Salvation Army sent him packages with toiletries and other needed items.
“That was 70 some years ago,” he says with a smile. “To me, [The Salvation Army] is okay.”
Tunis, proudly displaying many of his medals while eating lunch, said he was happy to see the veterans get recognition.
“They deserve it,” he says. “They’re locked up. Freedom is great. We saved the country. These boys did their duty and they deserve everything they get.”
Farrington Case, a member of VFW Post 5635 in Lackawaxen, Pa., and a World War II veteran who fought in the Pacific, displayed his 1984 Cadillac in the classic car show, but took a break to enjoy lunch.
“This is a very patriotic thing to do to honor us veterans,” Case says. “There are a lot of people that kind of forget about us, I guess. But The Salvation Army remembers and that’s great. All of us veterans who come here appreciate it.”
by Robert Mitchell