At The Laurels of Toledo, all residents are honored and valued for their unique personalities and contributions. But every November 11—Veterans Day—Laurels residents who served in our nation’s armed forces are given special treatment in recognition of the challenges they faced and the sacrifices they made in order to protect the freedoms we all enjoy and too often take for granted.
According to Page Rostetter, MED, CTRS, RTCR, Activities Coordinator at The Laurels of Toledo, the facility’s Veterans Day celebrations have included a wide range of activities and commemorations. “For example, we’ve held special pinning ceremonies for our vets, and representatives from local VFW posts have come in to meet our vets and present them with baseball hats from the branch of the armed forces they served in—which they wear proudly. Also, for the last three years, the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club has come here to bring our vets free meals provided by local restaurants.”
The Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club—a national organization consisting of approximately 122 chapters and 3,000 members—is an homage to the six all-African-American army regiments that were established at the beginning of the post-Civil-War Reconstruction era in 1866. In addition to fighting in our nation’s wars, the many contributions the Buffalo Soldiers made included guarding the mail; escorting and guarding stage coaches, cattle drives, and railroad crews; building roads and telegraph lines; serving as the first border patrol; protecting Indian reservations; delivering treaties for the federal government; and much more. The nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” was given to the members of these regiments by native Americans as a testament to their valor in battle.
Today’s Buffalo Soldiers may ride motorcycles (“iron ponies”) instead of horses, but they continue to serve their respective communities in numerous ways, including honoring and assisting military vets. In fact, according to Earl Mack, president of the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers, most of the members in the chapter are current or veteran military personnel or current or retired police officers, so serving vets just comes naturally.
Mack explains that the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers launched “Operation Shut-In” four years ago when they realized some area veterans were missing a special opportunity available to them on Veterans Day. “Every Veterans Day, vets can show their ID in various local restaurants and get a meal at no cost. Four years ago, we asked ourselves, ‘What about vets who are homebound or disabled and can’t take advantage of this goodwill gesture?’ So now we do a food run every year on Veterans Day to serve those who can’t get out,” he says.
The meals delivered to The Laurels this year were provided by Ruby’s Kitchen. In addition to being a token of thanks for the resident veterans’ military service, the meals also provide an opportunity for the vets to come out of their rooms and spend a little time together socializing. For some, this can be challenging because as Rostetter explains, most of the vets she’s met and worked with have been very humble people who are oftentimes reluctant to discuss their wartime experiences. “Still, we managed to get a few of them talking about their memorable moments. One of them recalled lying in a foxhole and wondering whether he would ever get home again. Many of them saw things that most of us can’t even imagine,” she adds.
Mack also recognizes that to the vets at The Laurels and other facilities, Operation Shut-In is about more than just receiving a no-cost meal. “Our veterans love us coming in, and they really enjoy the meal, but beyond that, they’re just extremely grateful for the visit and the opportunity to talk with someone.”
Rostetter notes that almost all the veterans currently residing at The Laurels served in the Vietnam War with the exception of one individual who served in Korea. “These are the people who, unfortunately, were treated shamefully when they came home from war, and they don’t typically like to discuss what they went through. It’s nice to have an opportunity to show them our appreciation and recognize their sacrifice. It’s something we should all do more than once a year,” she says.
The Laurels of Toledo accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and all private commercial insurances. A physician’s order is required to obtain outpatient services. For more information, call 419-536-7600 or visit www.laurelsoftoledo.com. ❦