110417-adh-nws-LBCC Veteran garden01B-my (copy)

Lisa Akers, right, helps her mother, Joann Kadin, of Stayton, fasten cedar planks onto a raised bed.

Mark Ylen Democrat-Herald

One of the greatest things about Linn County is the way it recognizes and honors the sacrifices of its veterans, and that's particularly true in the week that leads up to Albany's massive Veterans Day parade, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. 

But before we get caught up in the final preparations for the parade, recent events in the county involving veterans are worth additional reflection.

First, you might have noticed the Democrat-Herald's Saturday story about an effort underway at Linn-Benton Community College to create gardening and farming areas on the Albany campus specifically for veterans. The project is the brainchild of Lisa Akers, a veteran who left the Navy on a medical discharge in 2002 and struggled on her return to civilian life.

Akers joined the Organic Growers Club at Oregon State University and found solace in her time working the soil. Other veterans in the club reported similar experiences.  And that's when the idea struck her: Why not create gardening and farming areas on campus specifically for veterans?

The idea took too long to get off the ground at OSU, so Akers transferred her efforts to LBCC. On Friday, Akers, along with friends, family and two dozen volunteers from The Home Depot were on hand to build a greenhouse, an equipment shed and 10 raised beds filled with soil for late fall crops. Home Depot, working with the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America, agreed to donate $14,500 in building supplies. LBCC provided the plot of land, about 60 by 100 feet, and put the program under the auspices of its horticulture department.

Akers and her cohorts hope that veterans take advantage of the opportunity to meet and interact with each other. Maybe some of those veterans will get a taste for farming from the work. And the head of LBCC's horticulture department, Stefan Seiter, hopes the program gives students a chance to work alongside with veterans, getting their hands dirty together and learning from each other. We don't see a downside at all in any of this — and we thank Akers and her colleagues for coming up with a creative way to help veterans (and other students) turn over a new leaf.

Meanwhile, on Saturday in Halsey, 100 or so people braved chilly temperatures to help dedicate the Central Linn Veterans Memorial. The monument honors citizens from central Linn County who have served in the armed forces after World War II; it is meant as a continuation of a World War II memorial which also is located in Halsey's Veterans Memorial Park.

The new memorial lists the names of more than 400 county residents who have served. Just viewing the hundreds of names etched onto the monument offers evidence of the value that Linn County residents put on serving their country.

U.S. Army Capt. Mark Timmons, a Brownsville resident and a veteran of the Iraqi War, put it well during Saturday's dedication: "These men and women all started in the same place that our forefathers did," he said. "Citizens first, but when their country needed them, they stepped forward in service to their country."

It's telling that the Halsey memorial includes plenty of space for additional names. They will come, all of them setting aside their personal lives for at least awhile, because they feel the need to serve their country. It's a noble act that deserves our appreciation — and that's part of what we celebrate this week.

But our obligation to veterans doesn't end there, as the story of Lisa Akers and her LBCC project shows: We also owe our veterans, who sometimes struggle to readjust to civilian life, every opportunity we can afford to help them do that. This week's events are a great opportunity to honor veterans, but we also need to remember that we owe those veterans more than just accolades. (mm)

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