Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Seniors Salute Soldier

On October 10, 2006, the Lehigh Valley's Express-Times posted a news item, by Meghan Smith, on the Penn-Live website entitled "'One of the Lucky Ones' Meets Benefactors". It tells about a senior citizen group known as the Autumn Club, that had "adopted" a Pennsylvania National Guardsman during his military service in Iraq, and then held a luncheon in his honor upon his recent return home.

Staff Sgt. Wilberto Lucas, of Bethlehem's
228th Forward Service Battalion, received a hero's welcome and a standing ovation during a luncheon at the Bethlehem Township Community Center with about 60 members of the township's Autumn Club. The seniors had shipped to him weekly packages full of treats and supplies during his tour of duty. Lucas, who lives in the township, spent 18 months in Iraq before returning home to his wife and children this summer.

The Guardsman is quoted in the article expressing his appreciation to the seniors:

"I'm one of the lucky ones who made it back," the 45-year-old small engine mechanic told the seniors, who shipped him weekly care packages stuffed with treats and supplies during his tour of duty.

Calling their efforts heartwarming, an emotional Lucas said that Monday was his first opportunity since coming home this summer to match faces to the names he'd read many times in cards and letters.
* * *

The emotional and physical toll of that kind of war, he said, has been hard for the husband and father of seven to take. * * *

As the guardsman was speaking, a man passing through the lobby extended his hand to Lucas.

"I just want to thank you for your service," the man said as he shook Lucas' hand.

The article compared the support that the seniors had provided to this Guardsman overseas, to the support that seasoned military personnel provide, while posted, to younger and less experienced soldiers.

* * * "I know that I've saved a lot of lives and it's important for the older generation to help the younger generation get through this."

The guidance he offers younger comrades, he said, is like the encouragement the Autumn Club seniors gave to him.

"They've been around for other wars. They survived it," Lucas said of the seniors. "We should learn from them. They could teach all of us something."

After logging through the Penn-Live portal, I found the complete article here.

Senior groups like the "Autumn Club" are spread throughout Pennsylvania, many located at Senior Community Centers. In a description found online here, the PA Department of Aging notes:

Statewide, over 650 full and part time Senior Community Centers offer people age 60 and older, and their spouses, a place to go for nutritious meals, social activities, and a range of programs such as health screenings, health and consumer education, creative arts, exercise, and other special events which are unique to individual centers.

Senior Community Centers often work with a variety of local organizations, and provide access to other community services as well. Centers also offer volunteer opportunities where older people can contribute their experience and skills in meaningful and satisfying ways.

Of the 650 Senior Community Centers approximately 100 are known as "satellite" centers where people age 60 and over, and their spouses, can get together, socialize, and enjoy group dining.

The Department advises: "For information about the Senior Community Center in your area, contact the Area Agency on Aging serving your county, or visit the website of the Pennsylvania Senior Centers at"