Patriotism runs strong at Elan Gardens

First Posted: 11/4/2014

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is a big deal at Elan Gardens, 465 Venard Road, Clarks Summit, a nonprofit community-based residence for the aging population. With six residents and four staff members who are veterans of various branches of the United States military, the celebration grows every year.

“My goal was to make it the biggest and the best,” said Bobbie O’Donnell, community liaison and recreation coordinator. “Last year was big, but this year is even bigger.”

The program will begin at 1:30 p.m. with residents and guests gathering in the foyer. Clarks Summit VFW Post 7069 will facilitate the flag raising at 2 p.m., followed by a 21 gun salute by the Northeastern Detachment Marine Corps League and Museum, of Scranton. The celebration will then transition back indoors, with a guest speaker and introduction of the Elan Gardens staff and residents who are veterans.

Lieutenant Colonel Carl J. Weinschenk, Jr., of South Abington Township, will serve as guest speaker for the event. A U.S. Army veteran and retired Commandant of the Gino J. Merli Veterans’ Center, Scranton, Weinschenk served on active duty for more than 22 years in the Army Medical Department, where he was administrator for several medical facilities throughout the United States.

He retired as Lieutenant Colonel, Medical Service Corps, U.S. Army. He earned many military awards and is a member of the American Legion, VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), JWV (Jewish War Veterans) and AMVETS (American Veterans). He is also an active volunteer at the Gino Merli Veterans Center.

After Weinschenk’s remarks, two army reserve veterans will provide entertainment with a patriotic sing-along, followed by a dessert reception.

O’Donnell, who was an Army Reserves captain during the Gulf War and served as an elementary school teacher prior to her position at Elan Gardens, said one thing she noticed about the atmosphere of last year’s celebration was an overflowing of patriotism among the residents.

“This is probably the most patriotic generation I’ve ever encountered,” she said, “these World War II veterans.”

One resident, Alfred Reich, 89, previously of Peckville, a World War II Army veteran, served as a staff sergeant stationed in Crowder, Mo. from March 4, 1944 to March 28, 1946, in the Signal Corps. He said Veterans Day makes him proud to have served his country.

“I did my part in the U.S. Army,” he said.

Bernie Rockman, 89, was a U.S. Air Force sergeant during World War II, stationed in the Galapagos Islands from 1943 to 1946. To him, the day is “a means of remembering the good and the bad.”

The Hazleton native has plenty of both to remember.

His best friends, he said, are those who he met in the Air Force, and many got out at the same time as him, so they “lived it up together.”

But he also has a “very tragic story” to tell, he said, remembering his comrades who were killed in a plane crash. He said he was apart from his unit, delivering supplies, when a pilot asked what outfit he was with. When he answered, he was told one of that outfit’s planes was missing.

“The pilot called back to our base,” he said, “and he told us that the plane that I was on crashed and there were no survivors. Sixteen were killed.”

Rockman was the only man from his unit not on that plane when it crashed.

Another Elan Gardens resident, Marty Brennan, 71, previously of South Side Scranton, is also a U.S. Air Force veteran. He served during the Vietnam War as a staff sergeant and was stationed at several locations, including Texas, Florida and Greenland, in material command, working with supplies.

“I think it’s important to praise the military,” he said. They’re doing a good job. We couldn’t live in peace if it wasn’t for the military. Most of them are just ordinary people doing a big job. I feel proud to be among them.”

Other military veterans residing at Elan Gardens include Leon Abramowitz, Sheldon Goldstein and Joseph King. Other staff members there who are veterans include Stephanie Gleason, Matthew Georgetti and Alan Scango.

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