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Sandy Journal

Sandy veterans

Dec 01, 2017 08:00PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Retired Marine Dennis Howland speaks. (Charles Otis)

Sandy Senior Center celebrated Veterans Day this year by hosting a program highlighting veterans’ service, which included a free breakfast sponsored by the advisory council.  

“These gentlemen, to hear their stories, it’s an honor for me to be able to talk to them to hear what they have gone through and listen to their experiences, to joke with them, to laugh with them,” said Cindy DeLao, program director of the center. 

Along with the breakfast, veterans and their families were treated to the ROTC posting the colors and a candlelight service for the fallen and those who have since passed on. The glee club, which has around 20 members who perform at schools, civic events and other senior centers, performed the songs of each branch of the military.

Last year, over 50 veterans attended, including five who served in World War II and their families, and a similar number was expected for this year. 

“The word has gotten out that it’s a very cathartic event, where people can come and acknowledge each other and feel better,” said Charles Otis, who has been the center director for four years where the event was already fairly well established.

Les Beach, an army veteran of 36 years who served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and Dennis Howland, a Marine who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969, spoke to those in attendance about their service and how things have changed since. 

“It has grown because we’ve been able to get more Vietnam veterans to participate,” said Otis. “We’re also getting more women veterans.”

A star flag ceremony was also part of the program. Flags were handed to the veterans who wanted one. The star flags began in World War II — they were displayed in homes with a star for each member of the family serving in the armed forces. 

DeLao received a three-star flag for her grandfather, herself and her son, who all served or are serving in the U.S. Army. She will soon be trading in her three-star flag for four stars when her daughter, twin to her son in the army, finishes basic training and enters the Air Force. 

“I’m very proud of my children,” said DeLao.

DeLao is concerned by the treatment of not just veterans but all seniors in western society due to the push of technology that makes utilizing them for wisdom and information less desirable. She worries that we, as a society and families, don’t go to seniors anymore to learn, who are being pushed to the outskirts. 

“I just love being able to talk to them and just give them the attention they deserve because they are a resource that’s dying off,” said DeLao.

Both DeLao and Otis hope to stem that descent by engaging with younger people whom they have things in common with, and veterans are a great place to start.

“We have a very active center and we get a lot of participation by our veterans because they know that,” said DeLao. “We have a reputation that precedes itself and they enjoy coming out and participating.”

The Sandy Senior Center is one of 18 senior recreation centers in the Salt Lake Valley. It is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and offers a litany of classes, activities and programs like enhanced fitness class, mixed martial arts, yoga, cooking class, bingo, oil painting, chess, stained glass, Spanish, ukulele, dance classes and many more. 

The program directors also have monthly meetings to brainstorm and trade new ideas for keeping their centers active and interesting to their seniors.