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Veterans Day was celebrated two days early at the George E. Wahlen Veterans Home in Ogden. Tear-stained faces wrinkled with smiles as the Majestic Choir, consisting of the fifth- and sixth-grade classes from Majestic Elementary School, sang the national anthem and waved American flags.
On Friday morning, veterans living in the home were celebrated and honored with a special pre-Veterans Day program. Community members as well as friends and family came out to pay tribute to their war heroes. Leslie Mellinger read her award-winning poem, “The Solider,” and Dennis McFall, the deputy director of the Utah Department of Veteran Affairs, was the keynote speaker.
Twenty-six students and faculty from Weber State University’s nursing program arrived at the scene that morning to aid the veterans and show their support for the servicemen and women.
Laura Eccles, who is in her second year of the nursing program, said this was her first time participating with the program at the veteran home.
“He was so sweet,” said Eccles of the veteran she assisted to the meeting room. “He grabbed my hand and started kissing it and said, ‘You’re sweet as sugar.’”
Eccles smiled as she said it’s important for the veterans to know how appreciated they are.
“Here, a lot of times they don’t get visited as much as they should, so this celebration lets them know what we haven’t forgotten about them and that we really do appreciate everything they did for us.”
WSU’s nursing program has partnered with the veterans home since 2006, according to McFall. With 120 beds, Ogden’s is the largest veterans home of the four in Utah. McFall said the dean of the WSU School of Nursing has intentionally been on his board.
“We want Weber involved in the treatment center; we want them involved in decisions relative to the clinical side, so those things are all important,” McFall said. “A lot of nursing students are here doing their residencies and internships.”
Some veterans who require care at the veterans home reside there for a number of years. Seward Nichols, a self-proclaimed “worn-out Marine” who has lived at the Ogden home for two years, said Friday’s celebration was a “great and loving experience to remember.”
Nichols, who will celebrate his 84th birthday later this month, said he hopes to stay at the home until he reaches 100. In the two years Nichols has lived at the home, he said, 88 veterans have died. But he said being surrounded by other veterans is one reason he likes living there.
“Their courage and such inspires me, but I have everything taken care of and paid for — my room, my meals and my entertainment, such as today,” Nichols said. He went on to talk about the nursing students from WSU. “They like to say hello to me because I have a pig valve in my heart.”
McFall said it’s important for WSU students to honor veterans and stay involved with the activities and events they sponsor at the home and around the community.
“We are always looking for talent for entertainment; we’re always looking for people that can come over and just be friends and visit with them, read to them,” he said, adding that students can get involved just by asking.