The music was nostalgic Friday at the veterans home Christmas party.
The In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club visits the veterans at the William R. Courtney Veterans Home in Temple on the third Friday of each month.
For the Christmas party they brought a band — Scotty Ray and Blanca Oldie But Goodies, whose tunes include country-western, old standards and some Chubby Checker and Tom Jones.
The motorcycle club, whose motto is “Vets Helping Vets,” has been around for about eight years and is one of three chapters in Texas.
“We’re all Vietnam veterans, boots on the ground,” George Hendershot said.
The Christmas party is an annual event and the club provides soda, beer for those allowed to have it, and cheese puffs. They also brought gifts for each resident; this year the gift was the club’s support T-shirt.
“When the weather is more conducive to riding, we’re out each weekend supporting other motorcycle clubs,” Hendershot said. “There are a lot of veterans groups in the Killeen area and we support all of them and they support us.”
The club’s efforts, including the Friday party in Temple, is all about the veterans — Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force — who have served the country in all conflicts, he said.
The group honors all the veterans have done for the country and exists to do whatever needs to be done for the veterans.
Hendershot, who served in the Army for 32 years, said he believes the country is paying more attention to veterans today.
“I got back from Vietnam in 1969 to nothing,” he said.
When members of the armed forces returned from the first Gulf War to parades and recognitions, Vietnam veterans began to be acknowledged for their service, Hendershot said.
“It’s a privilege to do this,” he said of the party.
The dining room, where the party was held, was full and Erica Rehders, wife of one of the musicians, danced with a few of the residents.
Robert Douglas, a member of the motorcycle club, served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
“Being able to do this means the world to us,” Douglas said.
There are World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans here, and there always will be a special camaraderie between veterans, he said.
“They appreciate it and we appreciate it,” Douglas said.
Mike Atkinson, a resident of the Courtney Home for five years, came to Temple from Amarillo.
Atkinson is a Navy veteran and was a gunner’s mate during the Vietnam War, but he spent much of his time in San Diego.
“My job was care and maintenance of nuclear weapons, and they said anybody with a security clearance can’t step a foot in Vietnam,” he said. Douglas served 1964 to 1968.
He was 17 when he joined the Navy and when he got out he went to college, attending Kansas State, and got a civil engineering degree.
Atkinson ended up in Temple after he broke a hip while living in Amarillo. His son found the Courtney Home and strongly recommended his father move there.
“These guys are great,” Atkinson said of the In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club. “We’re brothers, we can relate to each other.”
The whole community is good to the Courtney Home, he said. In December, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department dropped by to sing carols, as have several schools and churches.
“We have not been forgotten,” he said.