‘We’re the Lucky Ones’: Country Side Honors Veteran Residents

One by one, the post commander went to each honored veteran, reading their names, presenting them with a certificate and American flag pin and personally thanking them for their service.

The ceremony took place not at a military base or academy, but at Country Side Living, a long-term care facility in downtown Canby dedicated to memory care. Instead of uniforms, the vets preferred sweatpants and flannel.

But it was obvious that, for many of them, the ceremony was no less meaningful than if it had taken place on the National Mall.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

“You could tell that they felt that connection,” facility co-owner Brad Litle said. “When they got the round of applause, their faces just lit up.”

For Litle, vice president of ‘Ohana Ventures, and President Matthew Hilty, it was their first time experiencing the annual tradition as the new owners, having acquired the facility just last month from founder and longtime owner Erik Berkey.

‘Ohana is a Lake Oswego-based senior care development and management company that specializes in, among other things, Covid and other infection-control protocols.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

“Couldn’t have been better,” Hilty said of the event. “This is all about thanking the people who created a world that is safe for us. We are so blessed and fortunate to be able to have the privilege of caring for those who cared enough for us. We’re the lucky ones.”

Country Side human resources manager and event emcee Michele Quinn explained that the annual tradition has been ongoing for well over a decade in some form, though it was heavily modified last year due to Covid-19.

“They did it through the window,” Quinn said. “That was hard, I think. [The residents] didn’t really know what was going on. It’s exciting to be able to be in-person again, with families even, and with all the necessary precautions in place.”

Photo by Tyler Francke.

This year’s ceremony was the largest in anyone’s memory, primarily because of demographics. For unknown reasons, dementia disproportionately impacts women, whereas women of the aging veteran population (primarily the World War II, Korea and Vietnam eras) are much less likely to have served in the military.

But a total of nine veterans — all men, and representing a variety of military branches — were honored Thursday afternoon. Their fellow residents, family members and staff gathered in a large activity room to witness the ceremony and show their support.

“The dedication from this staff is really what makes this special,” Hilty said. “I mean, look at this; it’s incredible. And it’s not because they have to, but because they want to. That’s the difference.”

Photo by Tyler Francke.

Litle said the ‘Ohana team is proud to join the Canby community and its long tradition of honoring the nation’s heroes. And, with the holidays just around the corner, they’re thankful to be able to resume more normal activities — with appropriate safeguards and state-mandated protocols still in place.

“It’s huge,” he said of the return to some semblance of normalcy and routine. “You can feel it in the residents and the staff. It’s a renewed sense of life.”

Hilley and four members of Post 122 also conducted a flag retirement and replacement ceremony in the facility’s outdoor courtyard.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

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