Anyone who has served will understand why it’s important for military veterans at Meramec Bluffs to come together on a regular basis. It’s one of those things, like many things about serving in the military, some civilians may not understand. And it’s another one of those things that veterans are happy to share with civilians to help the general public better understand military service and veterans’ role.
“Veterans like to reach out to each other whether they are currently serving or not,” explained Merle Freitag, an Army veteran and resident at Meramec Bluffs, a Lutheran Senior Services Life Plan Community located in Ballwin, Missouri. “They like to share their experiences with non-veterans and strengthen the relationship between the veterans and the public.”
Freitag, who served in the Army from 1962 until the mid-90s, held a number of different positions including Comptroller of the U.S. Army. He has been glad to see the public’s perception of the military and its veterans improve compared to his early days in the service during the Vietnam War.
“My son was in the military for 25 years and each time he returned from an overseas combat deployment he and his unit were celebrated,” added Freitag. “Now, that’s the acceptance worthy of the veterans who have protected this nation and its people.”
Another way veterans are shown appreciation is through the support provided to them after their service. With their benefits changing often, it’s important to help veterans and their families get the information they need.
This is where the Meramec Veterans Committee steps up. The group holds an annual Veterans Fair at Meramec Bluffs for both resident veterans and veterans from the surrounding community to get current information on benefits. This fair, held in the summer, brings representatives from many agencies such as Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Medicare, Social Security, Chaplains, and much more.
“We regularly share new information with veterans and their spouses and provide contact points at the different veteran-related agencies,” added Freitag. “The fair helps people, especially the veterans’ spouses, connect with the right agencies and their representatives.”
In addition to gathering and sharing information regarding veterans’ benefits and support, the Meramec Bluffs Veterans Committee holds an annual Veterans Day Ceremony, which includes patriotic songs, memorials, and, of course, the playing of “Taps.”
So, why is it important to veterans to come together?
“People who serve, whether it is two years or 32 years, have a common bond resulting from their service to their country. That bond results in a kinship whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard,” explained Freitag. “At Meramec Bluffs, we get together to have a coffee and a donut and to share experiences, ask questions, and strengthen that bond. The linchpin is service to our country. We are all citizens of a great country, part of a big team. And we like to keep in touch with each other.”