BY JAMIE L. BRIDGES
For the World War II veterans who live at the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home in Tyler, their battles didn’t end with the signing of a treaty or the death of Adolf Hitler. Instead, they fight daily wars for their stories to be remembered. The men, all in the late 80s to early 90s, want their fellow East Texans to be a part of their lives and keep their history alive. “I think (the public) will have a real eye-opening experience,” George Martin, the group’s ambassador, said recently. “When you talk about long-term care in a veteran’s home, you conjure up a lot of thoughts, a lot of which is not good”. The Veterans Home was dedicated in 2011,and veterans moved into their homes in early 2012, according to the Texas General Land Office.
The home is comprised of 10 cottages, each containing 10 private rooms for veterans and their families. The home also can care for 20 Alzheimer’s patients. Martin moved in five months ago. “Well, I got lucky,” the South Pacific World War II veteran said. “I was out there when they broke ground, and I knew that because of my physical condition, I’d need it.” As ambassador for the veterans, Martin tries to get the public involved with the veterans and their care. “I go to Tyler to get people involved,” he said. “Some of these fellows don’t have visitors.” After opening, the home initiated a program for individuals or groups to adopt a cottage, Linda Reed, volunteer coordinator for the home, said. So far, six cottages have been adopted by various groups throughout East Texas.
When adopting a cottage, the group and its members promise to remember the veterans’ birthdays or special occasions and visit when able, Ms. Reed said. “The people are remembering birthdays, and some of the guys are coming out barbecuing hamburgers, and they are taking responsibility that those birthdays are remembered,” Martin said. “And occasionally they are doing something nice (for the veterans).”
Volunteers will often come out and just visit with the men, he added. Volunteers also have helped the veterans tell their stories on tape, which are sent to the Library of Congress’ Voices of Veterans program, Ms. Reed said. “(Volunteers) just need to sit and talk to them,” she said. “They need that more than anything.” Ms. Reed said all that’s required to adopt a cottage is that the volunteers remember birthdays and holidays and spend time with the veterans when they can. “There’s a lot going on (at the home), but there’s a lot more that could go on,” she said. “We share the fellowship that we have,” Martin said. “We all shared experiences in life, we all came out of a depression. Times were almost tougher at home (during the war), but we have a connection that will never leave us when we’re gone.
I’m proud to say that these men are my friends, very proud to say that. We don’t isolate any of the (other veterans) out there, but we’re a special bunch.”
For more information on how to adopt a home at the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home, call 903-617- 6150, visit TylerVetHome.com or go by for a visit with any of the veterans at 11466 Honor Lane in Tyler.