GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Few fraternal organizations are more all-American than the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, so it stands to reason that the Elks are at the forefront of honoring the nation’s veterans.
That’s not just on Veterans Day, as the local BPOE Lodge 2286 prepares to host its 7th annual Armed Forces Appreciation Night on Monday, but all year long, said Elks member and World War II veteran Fred Rowland of Glenwood Springs.
“The Elks is not just a fraternal organization, we are a benevolent organization, and a big part of what we do is provide services for veterans,” said Rowland, who has been involved in organizing the Elks’ veterans appreciation night since its inception.
“The purpose is to honor our military personnel veterans and current military service members,” Roland said. “We’ve had the appreciation dinners for several years now, and we always try to get a good turnout. That’s why we open it up to the community.”
The public and all veterans and active military personnel are invited to the Elks Armed Forces Appreciation Night, which takes place at 5 p.m. on Monday, Veterans Day, at the local lodge, located at 51939 Highway 6 in West Glenwood.
“We’ll have appetizers beforehand, followed by a small program and we’ll recognize some of the people in the Elks Lodge who help us keep our promise to the veterans,” said Lucy Maggard, lodge member and co-organizer of the event.
Veteran to veterans
It’s an honor veterans have earned, said Rowland, age 87, who served in U.S. Army armored division from June 1944 to June 1946, and was in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge.
As a member of the Elks for the past 18 years, he said he has worked to ensure that veterans receive their due through the various veterans programs sponsored by organization. Among them are the Wounded Warrior Project and the Adopt-a-Veteran program to provide companionship for hospitalized veterans.
This year’s appreciation program at the Glenwood Elks lodge will feature guest speaker Rich Luetke, who will be sharing the history of the United States Air Force and how it evolved from the former Air Corps divisions of the other three military branches.
“We try to emphasize and call attention to one of the military branches each year,” Rowland said.
Two Veterans Affairs nurses will also be on hand during the Monday event providing free flu shots for veterans, he said.
Guard visits hospice patients
Members of the Colorado National Guard Honor Guard will also be in Glenwood Springs Monday for several events.
According to National Guard Sgt. Sean Goodman, the Honor Guard will begin the day at St. Stephen’s School and has arranged with Home Care and Hospice of the Valley to visit several veterans in Garfield County who are in hospice care.
The visits are part of the hospice program’s “We Honor Veterans” program, said Sean Jeung, chaplain for Home Care and Hospice of the Valley.
“Something we saw happening was that more and more veterans were coming into hospice care before they died,” Jeung said. “These people have a story to tell, and as a hospice patient they also have a unique need to be companioned by fellow veterans.”
Hospice of the Valley has trained veteran volunteers to provide that service for its veteran patients, she said.
“Sometimes they just need to wrap up some things and talk about their experiences before they die,” Jeung said. “There are certain things veterans can get between one another that they can’t get from others.”
The Honor Guard will also be on hand along with the local Boy Scouts presenting the Color Guard for the Elks event Monday.
“We’ve had the appreciation dinners for several years now, and we always try to get a good turnout. That’s why we open it up to the community.”
Elks member and World War II veteran