This time of year the sounds of the holidays are all around. The hustle and bustle of shopping, parties at the office, caroling at senior living facilities, and of course visiting family. Those who served in the military are also part of a family millions strong and many generations long. This year, just like every year, they are remembered by members of that family we call the US military, the VFW, and other veteran groups. The Glendive post of the VFW along with the Sidney unit of the National Guard brought Christmas to the veterans at the Eastern Montana Veteran’s Home on Wednesday.
The effort was spearheaded by the VFW’s Axillary Volunteer Services coordinator Linda Staiger. Staiger, along with Elaine Lee, Betty Shearer, and Pat Kelly, wives of military personnel, serve the veterans on special occasions such as Super Bowl Sunday (complete with near beer!), throughout the year and also maintain a free store for the veterans to supplement reading materials and other items they enjoy. The women are part of four similar units statewide. The others are located in Miles City, Columbia Falls, and Fort Harrison.
At Christmas time, the women enjoy finding personalized presents for each and every veteran at the home, 60 veterans total. However, it has been a meager year for funds and the group only had $300 for all the presents and the party. VFW members and patrons as well as businesses in Glendive and Sidney took note and pulled together. In a matter of weeks area businesses began to come forward to help.
First an employee at the BNSF Roundhouse in Glendive asked supervisors if they could collect funds. Eryn Rule at ElectricLand/Radio Shack then agreed to host gift tags for customers to purchase presents for the veterans and soon Jock Stop, Koch Furniture, Albertson’s, Men of Promise, the Eastern Montana Veterans Foundation, Machinist Local Post 509, Greg’s Silver Dollar Pizza and US Bank followed suit, each contributing in different ways to make sure area veterans at the home were remembered. The Eastern Montana Veterans Home is a regional home – so not to be outdone, The Sidney unit of the National Guard worked with merchants in Sidney to raise funds and put together gift bags from that community as well. Sargent 1st Class Brianna Vanness and Private Justin Qually came to Glendive from that unit to pass out the gift bags personally. The big moment came when Santa and Mrs. Clause, played by Dave Steiner and Lorene Benson came in with cart after cart of special presents each with the name of resident taped securely to each package. The look on the veteran’s faces as Santa personally carried packages to them was as priceless as watching a child’s first Christmas – so many of the veterans seemed to be as grateful to hearing Santa know and say their name as they were for the present they were handed.
Presents were not the end of the party though..what kind of a party would it be without dancing? To the accordion tunes from Earl Jenson first Santa and Mrs. Clause danced together then they swept up residents on the dance floor to dance the holiday away.
Irene Pulse, the activity aid in charge of the party for the Eastern Montana Veteran’s Home said the events put on by the VFW are important to the veterans. They get excited to see the Guards in their uniforms and it reminds them that they are not forgotten by their own. They were not forgotten this Christmas – by their fellow soldiers or by our communities.