As most of you know, Veterans Day is celebrated on Nov. 11 each year. Just as an aside, I am going to remind you all that Nov. 10 is also a day to celebrate because it’s the U.S. Marine Corps’ birthday. So before I continue, I want to say “belated happy birthday” to all you Marines out there.

Good morning, all.

As most of you know, Veterans Day is celebrated on Nov. 11 each year. Just as an aside, I am going to remind you all that Nov. 10 is also a day to celebrate because it’s the U.S. Marine Corps’ birthday. So before I continue, I want to say “belated happy birthday” to all you Marines out there.

Now back to Veterans Day.

Since it falls on a Sunday this year, Kate Joyce, our senior center director, decided that we should do something special to celebrate this holiday at the center. And, it just so happens that one of our board members is Karen Cleveland-Herron, and she is also the hospice volunteer coordinator for Heartland Home Health & Hospice and the organizer of a program to celebrate veterans. And just to catch you up I’m gonna tell you a story.

It’s 2008, Karen is sitting in her living room watching the news and sees a clip showing a crowd of individuals setting fire to an American flag and generally disrespecting what it represents. Remember she’s working as a volunteer coordinator for Heartland. So what does she do? She goes into work, calls a meeting of her volunteers, tells them what she saw and they discuss what happened and decide to do “something.” Weren’t sure what, but the decision was made …. they had to do something.

Karen and her crew of volunteers ultimately decided that they were going to put together a program that spotlighted the flag and the men and women who were members of the military service who protect our country and our rights (even the right to do something not so great as burn a flag).

Karen put together a program, her “not husband at the time” Earl, made a stand for a flag and some planks of wood for volunteer James to put holes in so they could be used as stands for other flags. Now all they needed was a program that brought everything together. Karen decided that was something she could do and so she did. She wrote the program and they were on their way. Now what she had to do was research how to present the few flags they had. (Remember this was 2008 and they had just come up with an idea and they had no budget to work with.)

Over the years they added flags representing every branch of service, a Christian flag and also one for Oklahoma. The Oklahoma flag was added because, not only to show pride in our state, but also to remind us that Okie soldiers were almost always volunteers not drafted into the military services when they were needed. Oklahoman’s defense of the 1940s battle front lines also had one of the highest POW statistics and there are still 46 servicemen listed as MIAs. The Christian flag was added because of the reminders we have on our money (“In God we Trust”) and our Pledge of Allegiance.

Volunteers now total 20, 18 of which are in every program they present. The decision about what to wear resulted in everyone wearing black with a white sash. The program includes an emotional presentation of the story behind the creation of our national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” (and I am not ashamed to say – I cried).

They also present a memorial list of the members of the military who have passed on. Each name is mentioned and a candle is lit in their memory. After the program the candle is given to a family member.

Karen’s volunteer group presently handles seven to eight presentations annually. They will come just about anywhere in the nine-county area that Heartland covers. If they can get there in their car and truck caravan, they will come. There is no fee for their bringing their program to anyone who asks. They do it because they love this country, this state, and the military personnel who keep us safe. I look forward to seeing you at the Municipal Auditorium on Monday, Nov. 12, at 9 o’clock in the morning when the Shawnee Senior Center is proud to present our Veterans Day program provided by the Heartland Band of Volunteers and sponsored by Heartland Home Health & Hospice in Shawnee.

Remember Kate Joyce and Mike Askins always have something to discuss every Wednesday morning at 8:35 and they are sure to make you smile so check ‘em out at “Mike in the Morning” on KGFF (FM100.9 or AM1450.

You can always pick up a calendar (with the meals scheduled on the back side) at the front desk of the center or you can check out our webside, ShawneeSeniors.org, or our Facebook page, Shawnee Senior Center.

And, as always, see you at the center!