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Honoring the ‘Greatest’

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Terry Haines holds a medallion that will be presented to WWII veterans Monday during a ceremony at Rogue Valley Manor.
Ceremony will recognize World War II veterans at Rogue Valley Manor

A labor of love for Navy veteran and Central Point resident Terry Haines, the presentation of “Greatest Generation” medallions Monday at the Rogue Valley Manor will be equal parts recognition of surviving World War II vets, and a chance to share the importance of a time unlike any other in history.

Haines will be on hand to recognize the 15 WWII veterans who reside at the Manor in Medford.

Hosted in conjunction with the observance of the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, the private ceremony will include presentation of 2.5-inch medallions as well as a presentation of colors, the national anthem and a handful of speakers.

Haines, who serves as chairman of the local chapter and national board of the Non-Commissioned Officers Association, began distributing the medallions to veterans in the region in recent years.

The medallions were intended to be distributed around the country, but the the project fell by the wayside until Haines discovered the undistributed medals and made it his mission to put them in the hands of a generation whose sacrifice and patriotism, he says, was second to none.

Haines said the words inscribed on the medallions — “Valor, Sacrifice and Fidelity” — say it all. Those are concepts that a lot of people in this day and age don’t understand, he said.

“The Greatest Generation was a time unlike any other we’ve had in our country’s history,” he said. “We were just out of the Great Depression and then we headed straight into the Second World War.

“(It) was not like the First World War, which took place only in Europe. We had the Japanese attacking us at Pearl Harbor and drawing us into other battles. … we were in a battle unlike anything we’d seen before,” he said.

“In those days, when a soldier was sent off to the war, they were gone for the duration, which was four-plus years away from their family and loved ones. They didn’t have the internet and social media or email and cellphones. ... Nowadays, someone has a meltdown if they have their cellphone taken away from 20 minutes. This generation faced a lot of sacrifice, and they didn’t expect recognition or credit for doing so.”

Rogue Valley Manor Rev. Scott Tyrell said residents and staff at the Manor were excited about Monday’s ceremony, and the presentation by Haines.

Tyrell, an Army combat veteran who served in Iraq, said the chance to present the medallions to those veterans at the Manor tugged at his heartstrings. Tyrell and Haines are members at the same Veterans of Foreign Wars post, and Tyrell said seeing a presentation of the medallions by Haines inspired him to gather a list of World War II vets who live at the Manor.

“We had 16, but one just passed away, so now we have 15, and this is just really important,” Tyrell said. “They’re dying quick, most of them are in their 90s and even passing 100.”

“We wanted to hold this service to honor their service and their sacrifice and remember those that we’ve lost in the last year. For those who have passed, we’ll have a family present to represent them and receive the medal.”

Monday’s private ceremony, Tyrell said, will include presentation of colors and the national anthem, a handful of speakers and local students who will present each veteran with a handwritten card of thanks.

Tyrell’s son, Pierce, will be on hand Monday as part of a classroom of fifth- and sixth-grade students. The 11-year-old said he was excited to meet the veterans and show his respect, too.

“These are the veterans who fought in the war and who helped us have freedom, so we need to thank them for everything they did for us,” Pierce said.

“I’m named after my dad’s military buddy, who was in an explosion and lost his leg and his hand. He was a hero just like my dad is a hero, and these veterans are, too.”

Haines, who pays for most of the medallions on his own, said it was heart-warming to realize the enthusiasm for the medallion project. He hopes to eventually create a similar program for Korean War vets.

“As a society, we’re not teaching about what made this generation so great anymore, and I plan to do that, with anyone who will take the time to listen.”

How to help

Donations toward the project can be mailed to PO Box 5597, Central Point, OR 97502. More information is available by calling Terry Haines at 541-601-8467.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.