(Olathe, Kansas) – For the 32 veterans living at Cedar Lake Village, every day is an opportunity to stroll through memory lanes rich with military history.
Along a hallway in the campus’ main building are photos of residents past and present in military dress. Each branch of the military is represented with its respective flag hung above service member photos.
The other wall is a collage of iconic wartime images and a series of photos from the campus memorial garden.
The memorial hall started out as a seasonal tribute to veterans in 2011. But staff members Mark Johnson and Denise Hahn, who worked on the 2011 tribute, wanted to make the photo display permanent.
“We put the American Flag over the railing and pictures on each side, and we covered the wall,” says Denise. “It was so touching and meaningful that I didn’t want to just throw away the pictures. So we decided to frame and hang them in the current location.”
Visitors can continue the celebration of veterans when they exit the hallway and step into the veterans’ memorial garden just outside.
In the garden, an eagle statue overlooks shrubs and flowers. A walkway meanders through the greenery, and visitors can pause under a pergola, or visit with friends on benches and chairs.
The welcoming area also offers a chance to reflect on military service at one of the commemorative stones stamped with military insignia.
These spaces exist to honor residents like Joan Mattingly, who served in the Air Force for five years.
“I didn’t tell my mom I was going to enlist until I was going to Texas for basic training,” Joan recalls of her entrance to the Air Force. “She was so mad at me!”
Despite upsetting her mother, Joan says she enjoyed military service.
“It was just a job to me, but I liked the personnel. If I hadn’t fallen in love, got married and got pregnant, I would have stayed in.”
Like Joan, Carl Ekerberg, Charles Walje and George Chesney also have memories of their time in the service.
Carl served a total of six years in the Army — two in active duty, and four in the Army Reserve. He didn’t serve in combat, but could have.
“I was in several places where I could have been in a bad situation,” he says. “I was stationed in Korea during the time they were attempting to sign the cease fire with North Korea. I was then stationed in Japan as the Army was still policing there after World War II.”
Charles, who served with the Army for three years, did see combat. He joined the Signal Corps, and worked in Saipan with other radio operators.
“I joined the Signal Corps because I had always been fascinated with the way a radio operated,” Charles says. “Everything now is automatic and ‘push button’ — when I was in the service, we had to do everything manually. It took two men to operate the radio: one person to send the signals, and the other to hand crank the generator.”
George served in the Marine Air Corps and the Air Force for more than 20 years, retiring as a chief master sergeant in 1969.
George says he joined to see the world. But then, “they stationed me at the Olathe Naval Air Station, 16 miles from home.”
Eventually, George did see the world — he spent a year in Korea — when he worked as an aircraft maintenance supervisor.
“I remember taking off in the aircraft with the steam catapult going from 0 to 100 knots — you are sitting there and then pow, you are gone!”
Service members enjoy swapping stories with each other, says Denise, and it is because of the acts behind the stories that staff at Cedar Lake Village work to celebrate their veterans on Veterans Day and throughout the year.
A commemoration certificate honoring George Chesney’s military service hangs in his Cedar Lake Village home.
“Serving our country was an experience that shaped our veteran residents. They still carry those memories with them daily,” says Denise.
“This is why we honor them with a veterans wall and garden. The stories they carry privately help make this the great country it is.”
Cedar Lake Village will honor our Veterans with a special celebration on Wednesday, November 11 at 3:30 p.m. in the Chanticleer dining room.