LEBANON — A Valentine’s Day card can mean many different things. On Wednesday, handmade cards distributed by members of the Seven Oak Middle School leadership class represented respect and appreciation for the residents of the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home.
Nine members of the class brought hundreds of cards made by their Seven Oak classmates. Every student participated by making a card, producing more than 600 total. Volunteers from the eighth-grade leadership class distributed the cards, stopping and chatting with residents along the way.
Seven Oak counselors Laura Martin and Beth Seagrave helped organize the event. Before going to the veterans home, the group stopped and delivered cards Wednesday morning at Willamette Manor and The Oaks.
This was a new activity for the school, and Martin said the goal was simple.
“Community engagement, community enrichment,” she said. “One of the themes this term has been community service, giving back.”
The leadership class spoke for several minutes with retired Air Force Col. Boyd Yaden, a 1967 graduate of Oregon State University. Yaden summed up what he's learned over the years about leadership.
“No such thing as can’t do it. It may be hard, and you may need to back up and try again. … If you have your dream, don’t let people say you can’t do it, because you can,” Yaden said.
The students also spoke with Fred Hayden, who served in Vietnam as a member of the United States Marine Corps. Hayden told the students how he signed up with the Marines as a 17-year-old and spent 1968 and 1969 in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart. He told the students he carried an M60 machine gun, “which was almost as heavy as I was.”
Despite the hardships, there is much that he remembers fondly about his time in the Marines.
“I liked it, it was a good learning experience,” Hayden said.
But he also told the students he wishes he had stayed in school and he urged them to do just that.
Haley Hargis was one of the students who signed up to deliver the cards. She has family members who are veterans, and she enjoyed speaking with residents at the home.
“I wanted to hang out with them and bring joy to their faces, brighten their days,” Hargis said. “I learned a lot about history and personal stories have been fun.”
Classmate Sam Brandt said the day was memorable because of the response from the seniors they met.
“How excited they are to us. They’re thankful for the cards and they want to tell us what they did,” Brandt said.
The outing was not just a learning experience for the students. Seagrave said this was the first time she had visited the veterans’ home and she was overwhelmed with the care the veterans receive.
“I live out of town and I commute to Lebanon every day and it was my first time here. It’s huge and incredible and very well-kept. The staff are all very positive and happy and the residents seem happy. I’m super-impressed with it,” Seagrave said. ‘There’s a lot of individualization on each door. They each have their own placard with their branch of service. It’s really cool.”
Christine Strawn, a recreational assistant at the veterans home, said these visits are very meaningful to the residents.
“It means a lot to the guys, especially the kids. They love sharing their stories with kids, future generations,” she said. “I think it’s important. A lot of this history is going to go away. So, for these kids to hear it firsthand is pretty amazing.”