Generations of veterans bond over pizza, service

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
St. Charles resident and Army veteran Ted Bartley, left, converses with Army veteran Steve Chastain of Celestine during a veterans dinner at the Jasper Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Tuesday. The dinner was hosted by Hosparus Health.


JASPER — Ted Bartley will never forget the years he served in the U.S. Army. Bartley, 92, remembers the boys who showed up to basic training during World War II. He also remembers the men who left when it finished.

The memories also stick with Ruth Schneider, a 99-year-old veteran who was a member of the U.S. Navy. She was stationed in a New Orleans office that oversaw the sending of sailors across the ocean. More than 60,000 who served in WWII never returned home.

Like so many others, the years Bartley and Schneider spent serving their country molded them into the strong people they are today. But as wars and conflicts have continued throughout their long lives, their stories risk slipping through the cracks of history — fading into the past as their final chapters close quietly in a local senior-living facility.

Tuesday night, Bartley, Schneider and five other veterans who currently live in St. Charles Health Campus facilities were reminded that their dedication will never be forgotten.

They all gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 673 on Newton Street in Jasper with family members, friends and younger veterans for a thank-you pizza party that spanned generations.

The event was organized by Hosparus Health, a nonprofit hospice and palliative care organization that provides medical care and services to those facing serious and life-limiting illnesses. Hosparus also honors veterans with events like at-home recognition ceremonies, and will continue to host parties for other area senior-living centers in the coming months.

Hosparus Health Clinical Director Amber Mundy of Jasper, left, converses with St. Charles residents, Army veteran Eugene Haase, center, and Navy veteran Ruth Schneider, during a veterans dinner at the Jasper Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Tuesday.

“There’s not a whole lot of recognition for years, for decades,” Amber Mundy, clinical manager at Jasper’s Hosparus Health office, said of the lack of appreciation some veterans receive when they come home. “Some may not receive any type of recognition at all, and that’s such a shame.”

Travis Mundy is more than a half-century younger than both Bartley and Schneider. His experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps are fresh in his mind.

At Tuesday’s event, he vividly described the attacks he’s endured: How rockets and mortars rained from the sky in the Fallujah base he was stationed in during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and how he and his fellow Marines ducked for cover “every day at some point.”

“Sometimes twice a day,” Mundy, 37, said as attendees mingled and ate pizza and cupcakes. “Sometimes even three times a day, depending on how active they were. Talk about nerve-wracking.”

And though the locations have changed, and the technology and warfare have evolved, Mundy recognizes a connection he shares with the veterans from St. Charles.

“Service to country,” he said. “I think service to country is the common thread. Because you think about it — what is a country without a defense? It’s no country at all.”

Months ago, Travis’ mother, Lindsey Burger — who is the outreach manager for the Jasper Hosparus office — began working with her son to formulate a plan to get the vets out of nursing homes and into a community setting.

They wanted them to feel recognized and proud, and the local VFW was on board to host from the very beginning.

As the dinner went on, more and more younger veterans joined the mix. The young vets smiled as they picked the brains of the WWII veterans for memories, and the old vets smiled as they passed a piece of themselves on to someone who could truly appreciate their sacrifices.

“I’m here for encouragement,” Travis said at the event. “To show these older veterans that us younger veterans still appreciate their service. There’s a bond, a brotherhood.”

He continued: “They say band of brothers, whether it’s a female or a male, these are people you can relate to. And I think they can relate to you.”

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