Last week we headed up to Fort Worth for our monthly WWII Veterans' Luncheon. As I'm sure we've probably mentioned many times before, this luncheon is the highlight of each month for us. About 2 years ago, a dear Iwo Jima veteran friend in the Dallas/Fort Worth area connected us with Kevin Boldt, a retired Army Medic and Care Home operator who would get together each month with about 60+ WWII veterans for a special luncheon to talk about their war experiences.
Mr. Boldt told us that initially the luncheon was just a handful of folks who would meet at their local Golden Corral. However as more and more veterans heard about it, the luncheon grew until they had to happily move to a much larger facility. By the time we made our first visit, 60+ WWII veterans were on the roster, plus nearly 100 family members and friends.
In the last two years, it has grown enormously and now includes numerous veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In fact it has grown so much that in the last few months, after lots of work on the part of Mr. Boldt and his incredible staff, the monthly WWII Veterans Luncheon became officially incorporated and titled, "Roll Call Fort Worth." Their new mission statement: "To share through education, publication, and fraternity, constructive remembrance of Honorable actions taken by American Military veterans and service members."
At each luncheon, Mr. Boldt takes the mic around introducing new veterans, remarking on birthdays and anniversaries (we have several well into 70+ years of wedded happiness), and then concluding with a special veteran spotlight where he interviews one of the veterans about the service for all to hear.
This last month, the veteran highlighted was with the 7th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge. On anniversaries, such as Pearl Harbor Day or Victory in Europe Day, the veterans share their thoughts on where they were and what was going on. It is really a step back in time to listen to them.
So getting back to last weekend. Honestly, each luncheon tops the last. And last week was no exception. Once again it was standing room only for a house packed with men (and women!) who have bravely served our country over the last 75 years. B-17 pilots, Navy gunners, concentration camp liberators, paratroopers, Iwo Jima Marines, former German and Japanese POWs, and pretty much anything or position you can think of. The youngest WWII vet is about 88 and the oldest 101, with a whole bunch of 90's, 92's, 95's, 97's, and a couple of 99's in between. Pretty, pretty fabulous. I can't even begin to imagine how many years they are all added together.
There are so many- yet so few- words to describe how meaningful and beautiful these afternoons are. In a way it feels a little like the USO Canteen days of WWII. Greeting the veterans as they arrive (en masse), chatting with them about their families, where they grew up, their military service, and keeping them stocked up on coffee and tea.
They are not the strapping 19-year old soldiers they were when they first visited the USO Canteens in 1944, now they have a few more wrinkles, maybe a walker or cane (and that is a maybe), and perhaps can't cut quite the rug on the dance floor as they did 70+ years ago; but they still have that same twinkle in their eyes, rib-tickling humor, and infectiously genuine delight in life.
It is always an honor to be a part of such a wonderful family as our Fort Worth friends.
More photos from last week: