Friday, August 7, 2020
Aug. 7, 2020

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Mail call at vets home: Messages of support flood Lebanon facility hit hard by COVID-19


LEBANON — In a video sent over the weekend to the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home, a youngster named Charlie holds up a hand-drawn poster bearing a brightly colored rainbow and clouds.

And there is an Italian saying, “Andra Tutto Bene,” which in English means, “Everything will be all right.” It is a sign popping up in homes and yards across Italy, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Charlie is one of many people of all ages from around the world who are sending their love, thoughts and prayers to residents and staff at the veterans home, where the first Linn County case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was diagnosed almost three weeks ago. The number has since grown to about 15 residents, two of whom have died.

A 91-year-old resident of the veterans home who had underlying medical conditions died Sunday. He was Oregon’s 16th death associated with COVID-19.

Florida resident Janet Lee said she is with a group called Pinup Girls With a Cause and hoped everyone was having a great day. She thanked all of the veterans for their courage and service over the years.

“You are loved,” Lee said before signing off on her brief video.

Lee and Charlie were both participants in an effort called “Operation Well Wish,” according to Tyler Francke, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs.

“With the lockdown protocols that are currently in place to keep our community safe, it has been a tremendous change in the residents’ way of life,” ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick said in a news release. “These men and women at our Lebanon Veterans’ Home have borne the battles to keep this nation safe and free. It’s wonderful for so many of the people that they have protected to be remembering them in this challenging time.”

One resident, a U.S. Army Korean War veteran, said he turns on the veterans home’s closed circuit TV channel first thing every morning.

“It is encouraging,” he said, according to the news release. “While this virus is going on, I think this is a very good idea!”

The veterans are receiving everything from letters, postcards, pictures and artwork to brief, upbeat videos from sources both domestic and foreign.

In one video, a boy and a girl proclaim, “Thank you for fighting for us. Now, we are fighting for you.”

The project began rolling after a story about the home appeared in We Are The Mighty, a website aimed at U.S. military personnel and their families.

Almost immediately, items began arriving at the veterans home from Virginia, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Hawaii and, in Charlie’s case, Italy.

Jeremy Woodall, the project director for the veterans home, said the well-wishes have been a huge boost to both residents, who have been isolated in their rooms for over two weeks as part of the facility’s infectious disease prevention protocols, and staff, who have been working tirelessly to provide care.

“Seeing the smiles and songs and well-wishes come in from literally around the world has lifted their spirits,” he said. “Young children, men and women, veterans and civilians … everyone has a chance share love and hope to others in this time.”

To become a part of Operation Well Wish, send your cards, letters or other materials in an unlicked envelope to ATTN: Operation Well Wish, Oregon Veterans’ Home, 600 N. 5th St., Lebanon, OR 97355.