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‘We all wore the uniform’

Tallgrass Creek’s veterans honor service to country

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April 7th, 2017
Tallgrass Creek Veterans Club coordinator Jim Allen (left) introduces neighbor and fellow club member Bill Converse, who relates his experiences from 1965–1971, serving aboard three U.S. Navy nuclear submarines.

Tallgrass Creek Veterans Club coordinator Jim Allen (left) introduces neighbor and fellow club member Bill Converse, who relates his experiences from 1965–1971, serving aboard three U.S. Navy nuclear submarines.

Few sites are as impressive as a roomful of U.S. military veterans saluting our nation’s flag in honor of their service to our country. That, along with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, is how each monthly meeting of the Tallgrass Creek Veterans Club begins.

“There are quite a few veterans here, and there’s a special bond,” says Tallgrass Creek resident Fred Olson, an army veteran and one of the group’s coordinators.

Tallgrass Creek currently boasts 143 veterans, including 7 women, who represent all branches of the military. In addition to peacetime assignments, the group’s members participated in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm. 

The Veterans Club meets the third Thursday morning of each month in the community’s Cottonwood Room. In addition to Fred, fellow army vets Jim Allen, Joe North, Terry VanMeter, and Roy Jackson, coordinate the group.

The one-hour meetings welcome all residents and include speakers from the club who relate their personal military experience and, occasionally, outside speakers with unique military backgrounds. 

Planning and preparing

The five coordinators meet the first Thursday of each month to review individual responsibilities and plan the well-attended meetings. Terry, who served during the Vietnam War, is responsible for finding both internal and external speakers for each meeting. 

Fred helps speakers fit their words to a PowerPoint presentation, later projected on a big screen for optimum viewing during the meeting. 

Roy works on special projects such as the one he recently completed, photos of  Tallgrass Creek veterans taken during active service. Using the photos, resident Virginia Oberheide created a video set to music, which was shown during last year’s Veterans Day ceremony. 

“It was quite a job getting hold of the pictures,” says Roy. “But the outcome was worth the work.” 

Joe also has a special job. He acts as liaison for Tallgrass Creek veterans who wish to participate in Honor Flight, a nationwide, nonprofit program honoring U.S. veterans by transporting them to Washington, D.C., to visit national war memorials. 

Jim oversees the group’s activities and hosts all monthly meetings, introduces speakers, and helps plan future activities.

Honoring and remembering

Just as it is around the country, Veterans Day is special at Tallgrass Creek. Tallgrass Creek veterans are honored annually in the November 11 ceremony with individual introductions, military branch, and years of service. Jim moderates the ceremony.

An impressive part of the ceremony happens when newer veterans to the community are presented with a memorable gift—a handmade Quilt of Valor. The quilts are made by Tallgrass Creek residents associated with the national Quilts of Valor Foundation that has a goal of covering American service people with comforting, handmade quilts. The group’s mission hearkens back to Civil War days when soldiers leaving their homes to serve were given quilts to keep warm. 

Since resident Elaine Alexander started the Quilts of Valor project at Tallgrass Creek in 2008, the group has made hundreds of beautiful quilts for service people in the Kansas City area, including 145 for Tallgrass Creek veterans. Ten Tallgrass Creek veterans received quilts in last year’s Veterans Day ceremony. 

Resident Merrill Stiles, a retired physician and Vietnam War veteran, received his quilt several years ago and remembers the ceremony well.

“The women who made the quilts call the names and service record of veterans receiving quilts that day,” says Dr. Stiles. “They wrap the quilts around each recipient and give a big hug. It’s very touching and personal.”

The Tallgrass Creek Veterans Club started soon after the community opened its doors in 2007 and has been bringing meaningful, patriotic awareness to the community ever since.  

“We all come from different places and served in different ways,” says Fred. “But we all wore the uniform.”

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