Time to remember veterans at Christmas

For many families, the holidays are a time for sharing memories and celebrations. One local organization is reaching out to the community to help give this experience to those who may be forgotten this time of year.
Freedom’s Colors will be hosting its 14th annual Christmas dinner and program on Saturday for the veterans who reside in the Alzheimer’s ward at the Dayton Veterans Hospital.
“The Alzheimer’s ward is a locked, secured unit,” Freedom’s Colors Ralph Reynolds said. “They’re not allowed to go to a lot of outside functions — they don’t have a lot of family, so we want to be a part of their family.”
During the Christmas dinner, the veterans receive a full Christmas dinner and individual gifts. However, what they really get out of the event is more meaningful, Reynolds said.
Reynolds said he has received feedback from the directors at the hospital that the patients show true recovery after the Christmas festivities.
Many of the veterans do not show much emotion because of their conditions, but, after spending time with Freedom’s Colors, Reynolds said they show their true personalities.
“We come in as their families — we get them to dance,” Reynolds said. “Just to see the looks on their faces is unbelievable.”
Reynolds said he recalls one veteran in particular who the hospital staff said refused to eat.
“They were just getting ready to move him over to the hospital,” Reynolds said. “The day of the Christmas program, he ate two plates. The next week, [the hospital staff] called back and said, “this guy has done nothing but eat.”
Reynolds said the veteran who had previously refused to eat was talking, dancing and interacting with everyone at the party.
Before the Freedom’s Colors program, Reynolds said the Alzheimer’s ward has no Christmas decorations, so they bring a Christmas tree and help make the ward more friendly.
“Before we came, there were no decorations — it was just another day,” Reynolds said. “We give them a Christmas atmosphere. That’s what we want to do, make it warm.”
Reynolds said he would like to give the community the chance to give their support to the program, by donating solid color T-shirts and sweatshirts in sizes large, extra large or extra extra large.
“We have received support from veteran’s clubs in town, the Wapakoneta Middle School,” Reynolds said. “Now we’re reaching out to individuals in the community.”
Those interested in donating can call Reynolds at 419-230-1517. He said he would be happy to make necessary arrangements. Anonymous donations may be dropped off at 501 S. Rauthland Ave. in Wapakoneta.
“The community is very supportive,” Reynolds said. “We’ve already been receiving donations — we’ve got the community believing in us and what we do.”