As far as the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14 is concerned, the state’s veterans will never be forgotten.
That fact surfaced Tuesday when Lodge 14 held a special luncheon for 60 veterans who live at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol.
“It’s all part of our Elks National Foundation Mission Statement,” said Mark Eaton, Lodge 14’s exalted ruler. “Elks Lodges are charged with helping build better communities where our members live and work.”
Albert “Cookie” Delory, Lodge 14’s Elk of the Year, added, “We’re supposed to do charitable work in the community as well as honor the Elks pledge to never forget our veterans. These guys fought for us; the least we could do was support them.”
Tuesday’s music-filled luncheon was the second such show of respect and unparalleled support that Lodge 14 has shown veterans in two months.
On June 6, Lodge 14 held a Veterans Appreciation Dinner for everyone from homeless veterans to current military personnel on the anniversary of D-Day. But Tuesday’s event was different and extraordinarily special.
“Everyone loved it,” said Delory, who took the role of server. “There were two 94-year-old gentlemen here today. They were thrilled; one guy even got on and off the bus by himself.”
Sometime around 11:45 Tuesday morning, three white mini-buses carrying 60 veterans from their home in Bristol pulled into the backside of the Lodge 14 on West Shore Road. The veterans and their 11 accompanying staffers were greeted by 20 Lodge 14 members who helped each veteran off the bus, and in some cases pushed their wheelchairs into the lakeside lodge’s downstairs dining room.
From marches to hymns, the visiting vets were greeted by patriotic music played by four members of the Rhode Island National Guard’s 88th Army Band. The musicians included: Spc. Andrew Bates (trumpet), Sgt. Andy Larsen (saxophone), Spc. Tyler Donley (tuba) and Sgt. Steven Mann (euphonium).
“This is beautiful,” said Donna Warner, Lodge 14’s past exalted ruler, while pushing a wheelchair carrying Jim Connery, 84, to his place at a table as the band began playing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
Moments later, Anne Marie Greaves, Lodge 14’s chaplin, stood behind Armand “Pee Wee” Germain’s wheelchair in the dining area, where people like Elks Treasurer Lori Eaton and other Lodge 14 members were serving non-alcoholic soft beverages to all the visiting vets.
And the Sgt. Larsen-led band played on. At one point, there were teary-eyed people inside Lodge 14 when the sounds of the Stars and Stripes filled the downstairs dining room.
Meanwhile, Mark Eaton, who took on the role of chef Tuesday, cooked hamburgers that Lodge 14 purchased from Sandy Lane Meats. Eaton also cooked hot dogs and French fries to fill orders from each of the 60 vets.
The exalted ruler was assisted by Lodge 14 members Ernie Battey, Nick Rossi and Dick Warner. Other Elks who made sure each vet was fed and satisfied were: Carol Delory, Anne Marie Greaves, Diane Carley, Jan Battey, Joan LaPierre, Deb Sweeney and Katie Devlin.