Retirement community honors local vets, raise funds

Spiritwood at Pine Lake residents handmade 200 poppy flowers to honor Veteran’s Day.

Sgt. 1st Class Trevor Riesner, an active service member, visits with Spiritwood residents during Veterans Day to answer questions and meet with other veterans. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Angell

Spiritwood at Pine Lake honored its resident veterans Monday afternoon as seniors handed out 200 handmade poppies in recognition of Veterans Day at a local QFC.

Jennifer Angell, marketing director at Spiritwood, organized the holiday event after her successful themed calendar campaign to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. Several veterans from multiple eras of war participated in the event, and locals enjoyed seeing and speaking with the veterans.

“It was amazing — people were loving it,” Angell said. “It was just neat to have the veterans out… It made me proud to be American, to know that those men had given up their lives essentially.”

Poppies are a common weed in Europe and often were the only flowers to grow on a barren battlefield. An artificial poppy has become a commemorative symbol throughout the United States and other countries to honor those who’ve died in war.

Spiritwood residents handmade 200 poppy flowers and handed them out at the local QFC, gathering about $200 for the Veterans Association throughout the day. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Angell

Washington state has one of the lowest number of veterans per capita, but Spiritwood has the honor of hosting several, including Lt. Col. Bob Nuss, 98, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Nuss was joined by Korean War veteran, Bill Adams and fellow WWII veteran, Robert Hansbough, who has written several books about his experiences.

They chatted and were eventually joined by Sgt. 1st Class Trevor Riesner, who toured Iraq twice since he joined the army in 2006 and currently works as a recruiter. He has earned awards, including the Meritorious Service medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.

“The interesting thing is just the conversation between Trevor and those men,” Angell said. “[Nuss] was the original flight navigator who helped dropped the bomb on Nagasaki.”

Nuss and Hansbough are the only two WWII veterans remaining at Spiritwood — five had lived there last year.

Riesner brought his family and took time to visit with all Spiritwood residents who were interested. He swapped stories with the resident veterans and the men shared differences and similarities about how they regard the service now compared to when they first joined.

Riesner and Nuss talked for about two hours.

“They talked about the politics in the military now,” Angell said. “Bob felt that the military is too political now, and he wouldn’t have joined [today], he said, because, ‘I really feel like after Vietnam there were too many political statements being made and you’re no longer a hero…’ It gave me chills to be quite honest.”

Throughout the day, Spiritwood residents raised about $200 while handing out poppy flowers to QFC patrons. All proceeds were donated to the Veterans Association of America.

“I feel like none of us would be here and living the lives we do with our freedom without those men. I’m thankful every day,” Angell said. “To think about them putting their lives on the line like that and what they see at such a young age, it is unbelievable to me. And how could you not thank them?”