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Veterans and Our Gift of Freedom


On Friday, November 11, I went to a grocery store in my neighborhood. Outside sat a Korean War veteran, with a card table full of poppies—a traditional symbol in honor of those who died in service to their country, usually seen on Memorial Day.

The veteran had a picture of himself wearing a Navy dress blue uniform from his service during World War II. He shared a bit about his experience with me and proudly displayed a picture of the ship on which he served.

Though Veterans Day was celebrated last month, I was moved to write about those heroes and heroines who have given selflessly of their time and their talents to keep our nation free.

My passion comes from my father and five brothers, each of whom served in some branch of the military. Dad was a Marine.

At Aging and Disability Services, we have a heroine and a hero. I would like to share their stories with you.

Lorraine Sanford

lori-sanfordLori Sanford’s uncle, Paul, a Green Beret (U.S. Army Special Forces) in Vietnam, inspired her to serve her country. Lori signed on and became a Sergeant (E5). She served over six years in active duty in the U.S. Army, three years in the Air Force Reserve, and a year and a half in the Army National Guard. When offered three choices of jobs—cook, administrative staff, or helicopter mechanic—Lori chose helicopter mechanic. Though the going was tough with only a few women among the men in the Army, she persevered. Lori worked on an aircraft and was a helicopter crew chief, doing all the maintenance of the helicopter. She served in Virginia and Colorado, and spent a year in South Korea. Lori shared with me that she is most proud of working as a female in aviation and earning her Air Crew Member wings—quite an achievement for anyone, but particularly for a woman in the 1970s.

Daniel Widner

daniel-widnerDaniel Widner comes from a military family and he also wanted to serve his country. He became a Staff Sergeant (E6) in the Army, serving from 1998–2006, including time in Iraq (2004–2005). Daniel was a Transportation Management Supervisor. In 2014, he was hired by Aging and Disability Services as a counselor for the Program to Encourage Active and Rewarding Lives (PEARLS). In that role, he meets with veterans, veteran spouses, and spouse survivors. He offers understanding and a listening ear to older veterans, particularly those who are isolated by chronic conditions, immobility issues, and depression. Meeting one-on-one with veterans helps them to feel heard. As a veteran, Daniel understands service as well as honor.

PearlsAs we gather this month for holiday celebrations, may we remember to offer our gratitude to all men and women who have served or are serving our country. Whether in times of peace or times of war, let us not forget our loved ones close and afar who valiantly preserve our freedom.

Contributor Mary Pat O’Leary, RN is a planner at Aging and Disability Services who helped to develop the PEARLS for Veterans program. Learn more in her November 2014 article, Veterans Benefits and Support Services Can Change Your Life.