Veterans bond at Antwerp Senior Services

Janet Clawson - Antwerp Township Seniors
he Mattawan Lions Club Senior & Veterans Expo, held Monday, May 6, at the Antwerp Township Hall Activity Center, drew a large turnout for the event, which ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It featured over 100 exhibitors , free health screening and vision screening, as well as a display of military memorabilia. The expo was hosted by State Senator Aric Nesbitt, of Lawton, and State  Representatives Beth Griffin, of Mattawan, and Brandt Iden, of Kalamazoo.	Courier-Leader photos/Paul Garrod	Bill Petraitis, an Army veteran who has connected with other former soldiers through senior activities in Antwerp Township, shows off his military ring acknowledging his service during the Senior & Veterans Expo at the Antwerp Activity Center Monday. 	Courier-Leader photo/Steve Racette

    Over the past year or so, while sharing lunch at Antwerp Senior Services, several retired military veterans have formed connections that have grown into a family of friends, as the group has reached out with support to others.
    These vets are sharing their stories with each other. Many are especially good at just listening. The years of combined military experiences represented by this group could fill several books.
    The Antwerp veterans have gathered each year for an annual photo and a special cake for the Veteran’s Day luncheon. There are lots of them!
    Several of these veterans have been honored with the gift of a special military ring, designed to acknowledge service in the various branches of the United States military. This is the doing of veteran, Bill Elmer, who, while employed as a program/supply system analyst at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek, has been able to purchase the rings from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center gift shop.
    Recipients include Bill Petraitis, receiving an Army ring; Tom Campbell, receiving a Special Forces ring; Larry Lonsbury, receiving an Air Force ring; Ellie Curtis, receiving an Army ring; Rex Wise, receiving a Marine Corps ring; and Mary Mack, receiving a ladies’ Navy ring. These gold and black military rings are shiny, distinctive and very attractive, an honor to those who wear them.
    As the veteran movement within Antwerp Senior Services grows, additional gifts are being donated. The Yarn Crafters group has crocheted or knitted colorful afghans and the Antwerp Senior Quilting group has stitched up many quilts for the veterans.
    To date, Petraitis has delivered dozens of these blankets to the Decatur Post VFW Auxillary president Cathy Homola, who, in turn, has taken the afghans to VA Hospital patients, and to the veterans’ retirement home, located near the VA Hospital in Battle Creek.
    Elmer himself received a patriotic printed, rice-filled microwaveable neckwarmer for comfort on cold nights, created by a Paw Paw woman. A red, white and blue crocheted afghan was given directly to veteran Stan LaFountain by Elaine Lonsbury.
    Any person who wishes to create a new afghan or quilt for a veteran is encouraged to bring it to the Antwerp Township offices during business hours, or to the Antwerp Activity Center on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  
    Senior Services of Antwerp Township will make sure they are delivered.

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