Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Local News

Serving those who served

Published:   |   Updated: December 6, 2013 at 09:18 AM

Vietnam War veteran Ken Magyar watched as the Sebring High School Chorus belted out Christmas favorites.

Over in the kitchen of the First Presbyterian Church, several volunteers prepared plates heaped with turkey and the trimmings, ham, potatoes and other fixings.

Thirteen turkeys, five hams and 30 pounds of potatoes, to be exact, Donna Klemm pointed out.

Klemm, a local resident, belongs to the Highlands County Veterans Assistance Team, along with Joseph Wortman and Joan Mix.

The three visit nursing homes to deliver Christmas cards to veterans and make sure any needy veteran gets the help they can provide.

Last year, they had a big Christmas lunch for veterans, and Thursday they were back, feeding a home-cooked Christmas meal to about 100 people, several of them veterans.

Klemm said it took two months for them to organize the lunch, and all the food was donated by local stores.

Joann Hardwerwijk cooked a turkey for the event. She was volunteering and was there with her husband, Robert, who was in the Army.

She said some veterans don't have family to visit with during Christmas, and events like these provide them fellowship among their own.

Those attending included residents from Lake Placid Health Care Center, Sunny Hills Assisted Living Facility and Kenilworth Care and Rehabilitation Center, including veterans from VFW 4300, American Legion Post 74 and their riders group.

Socks stuffed with goodies, lap blankets and gift bags were passed around.

Local children also made Christmas cards for the veterans.

Those gathered heard from Bob Gleisner, a World War II veteran, who spoke about his experiences on a B-29 in Guam in World War II. He brought his medals and a replica of a B-29 with him.

Martha Welling was feeding her husband, Edward, another World War II veteran, while they sat enjoying the chorus.

During the war, Edward Welling had been aboard a Navy ship in the South Pacific when four Japanese suicide bombers sunk it.

In what was a miracle, they lost only eight of the 250 men on board, Martha Welling said. Edward survived, but instead of sending him home, the Navy put him on another ship.

When he returned home, after 2 1/2 years, his hands used to shake so much he had a hard time lighting a cigarette.

"His nerves were shot," she remembered.

On Thursday, the fellowship, the food and the music was good, Martha Welling said. She appreciated everything that was presented for the veterans.

"They are wonderful singers," she said of the chorus. "I like music."


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