By Kimberly Johnson, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
The Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home, opened in 2012, sits in rural Tyler, TX and provides a unique setting of long-term care for up to 100 veterans in a family-style setting that draws residents into social connection while still maintaining privacy and independence.
The American Red Cross North Texas Region’s East Texas chapter members have adopted the residents of one of the cottages and organize social and holiday events for its residents.
Current American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces volunteer, Roger Middleton (Air Force) says he is grateful for the opportunity to serve fellow veterans at the home.
Roger began his journey with the American Red Cross as a recipient of Red Cross services when Tropical Storm Claudette hit in 1979 and flooded the gulf region with more than 42 inches of rain in one day. Roger spent several nights at a Red Cross shelter and remembers how hard the shelter staff worked to help those affected.
“I knew I wanted to one day serve others the same way,” he remembers.
He became a regular blood donor and then, in 1986, found himself once again a shelter resident after another hurricane flooded his home. Soon after, he attended a Red Cross volunteer meeting and, as he says, “the rest is history.”
Today, Roger is a “regular” at the Watkins-Logan home.
“Not only am I helping others, but specifically fellow veterans which means so much to me,” he said. “Just having folks visit means so much to these residents.”
As president of his local writer’s guild, Roger began organizing writing activities with the veterans home residents. Through a unique twist of fate, he was connected with one resident whose family members were currently helping to write a memoir.
“He’s 90-years-old and was a machinist in WWII with over 40 terrific stories of his experiences,” Roger explained, “but the project was progressing slowly simply because his family didn’t live close by.”
Roger offered to help and was soon typing the personal, hand-written stories into his computer and sending to the family for editing.
“I soon realized the gentleman’s memories and stories were out of chronological order so I would sit and talk with him to help recreate the actual timeline and help fill in more detail,” Roger recounted.
With the help of the resident’s family members, they’ve been able to fill in pieces of the puzzle and have completed the book.
“I think it’s a proud accomplishment for this veteran to be able to share his life memories of an important time in our country’s history,” says Roger, “It was an honor for me to be a part of this project.”
American Red Cross volunteers regularly organize holiday celebration parties and lunches for days like the holidays, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day. Red Crossers have also helped the veterans create an outdoor garden providing residents the opportunity to plant and cultivate their own fresh vegetables.
During the Super Bowl party I attended in February 2016, one resident, Mr. Franklin, shared the list of vegetables he was already hoping they could plant when the time comes, “Oh, I’d like some corn, sweet peas and tomatoes,” he said, “and greens. Greens are my favorite!”
Service to country is one of the most honorable paths a person can walk, and the staff and volunteers of the American Red Cross are proud to give back to America’s military members and their families, not just in times of emergency or disaster but also to help make their everyday lives a little brighter. We salute all veterans and are grateful for the opportunity to serve the residents of the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home.
To take a virtual tour of the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home, click here.
You can sign up to volunteer with the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces by visiting us at redcross.org/volunteer.