Honoring our veterans is a privilege, and one we take very much to heart on Veteran’s Day and throughout the year. Each year on November 11, our country pauses to celebrate and honor our veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. The day was chosen because it marks the cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany; it went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
“With over 80 veterans living and working at Pine Run, Veteran’s Day is celebrated throughout our continuum each November 11 to honor our veterans and thank these men and women for their service to our country. Pine Run veterans have served in conflicts including World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan as well as in a wide variety of peacetime roles. With representation from every branch of service, they have contributed so much to our country. We are so grateful to them and proud that they call Pine Run home,” said Maria Santangelo, Pine Run’s Executive Director.
Each Veteran’s Day at Pine Run begins with a special breakfast for all veterans who live and work here. The annual event is a time for them to come together and share a meal, stories, and experiences. Veterans receive a booklet containing the names of all veterans, including their branch of service and when and where they served, as well as a gift for their service. On display are photos of Pine Run veterans at the time they served, as well as memorabilia spanning the various conflicts. Special acknowledgment is given to those veterans who have passed away during the previous year.
The Veteran’s Day breakfasts are a labor of love for Pine Run Associates. Under the leadership of Ceil Krajewski, Senior Director of Villager Services, they have become a beloved annual tradition. They also hold a deeply personal place in her heart.
“My son enlisted in the Marine Corps while he was a senior in high school in September of 2001. It was a very emotional time for me not coming from a military family, and I had no idea what to expect. Our country just experienced the trauma of the attack on the World Trade Center, and it was even more terrifying with my son enlisting. The veterans living at Pine Run at the time were supportive and a great comfort to me. After boot camp and additional training, my son was deployed to Iraq. The Villagers sent care packages and letters to my son the entire time he was deployed. This experience opened up a new world for me; I was now part of a new family. I wanted to show my appreciation to the veterans who lived and worked at Pine Run, and to the Villagers who gave me such support through this new experience. With the support of the Executive Director at the time, the breakfast was born,” said Krajewski.
Over the years, Ms. Krajewski has amassed a personal collection of hundreds of items owned and used by veterans, including uniforms, equipment, med and sewing kits, as well as MREs. She has also collected memorabilia from times of conflict that represent what life was like at home such as ration stamps, bonds, posters, and other items. ”One of my most treasured pieces in the collection is a prayer book from a soldier who served in WWII in France,” said Krajewski. “I found this book for sale online and purchased it so that it would always have a place of honor. Over the years, and with the help of Pine Run associates, we tracked down the owner of the book and can now display it knowing that it belonged to a particular service member. Through these efforts, and the annual Veteran’s Day display, we can continue to tell our veterans’ stories for generations to come.”
Honoring our veterans is not limited to one day of the year at Pine Run. Holding a place of honor in the Pine Run Community Center 24/7 is a permanent Veteran Honor Wall. The wall displays the seals of each branch of service and a monitor continuously runs the names of all Pine Run veterans, living and deceased.
Last year, Pine Run held an unveiling and dedication service for the community’s Never Forget Garden. Pine Run resident Thomas J. Barnett, a veteran, first approached Pine Run administrators about the Never Forget Garden in 2019. Barnett served as a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from 1953 to 1954 and is a life member of the tomb’s Society of the Honor Guard, which first proposed the nationwide Never Forget Garden project. The Never Forget Garden initiative gained steam as the Society of the Honor Guard organized events for 2021 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tomb’s creation.
A committee was formed in 2019 and included a mix of veterans, residents, and Pine Run Associates to identify, design, and create this important part of the Pine Run campus. The garden, next to the Pine Run pond, is a place for quiet contemplation filled with beautiful trees and plantings – all with symbolic meanings – nighttime illumination, and a special marker. A group of residents, Guardians of the Garden, tend the garden so that it can be enjoyed for generations. It is their way of honoring our veterans throughout the year.
Ohio-based stone sculpture company Carruth Studio was commissioned to create the marker for this project honoring our veterans. It reads, “This garden is a living tribute to all of America’s veterans and their families. In silence and respect, this is a place to remember why millions of Americans have fought and died for our liberty and our freedom. Here we renew our promise to fulfill America’s sacred duty to never forget. Here we renew our mutual pledge to support them with: ‘our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.’”