This summer, I reconnected with some of the staff members and the residents of The Armed Forces Home located in our nation's capital. The Armed Forces Home is one of America's oldest veteran's retirement homes. The Soldier's Home was established in 1851 as an "asylum for old and disabled veterans. Four of the original buildings still stand and are listed as national historic landmarks. Two of the buildings, Quarters 1 and the Lincoln Retreat served as the summer White House for U.S. Presidents-Chester Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Buchanan, and most notably, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln lived at the Soldier's Home, in what is now called Lincoln Cottage during our nation's most turbulent history, the Civil War. Lincoln spent one-fourth of his presidency at the Soldier's Home, and it is believed that Lincoln wrote the last draft of the Emancipation Proclamation there.
My very first visit to the AFRH was in 1998 when I was asked to share my experiences with a national organization seeking to establish its roots and create program models that could be replicated across the country. America's Promise-The Alliance for Youth identified a school in need of assistance, Macfarland Middle School in Washington, D.C. With the school identified, it was up to me to find a retirement center to partner with the eager students and their teacher. Through some research and reconnecting with colleagues, I learned of The Armed Forces Home in Washington, D.C. The intergenerational partnership between The Armed Forces Home and the students and educators of Macfarland Middle School was both compassionate and mutually rewarding. And for me, this two-year volunteer commitment was an enriching experience.
For years to come, I would visit and volunteer at The Armed Forces Home. Just this past August, I visited with the staff members and the residents of the AFRH and reconnected with the illustrious U.S. Veterans that reside at this beautiful campus and those wonderful people who care for America's finest. While spending time at The Armed Forces Home on August 4, 2015, I was grateful and happy to spend time with a dear friend of mine, Edith Ellington. Miss Edith served in the Air Corps in the Panama Canal Zone between 1944 and 1948, handling clerical tasks and also working in the hospital and even on the flight line. In later years, Edith went to school, she earned her Ph.D in education, married, and raised her family. Edith and I have spent quite a bit of time together enjoying lively and interesting conversations. Both Edith and myself are career public school educators and we are both staunch supporters of promoting a life-long love of learning at all stages of life. Edith and I share another very heartfelt emotion...we both have experienced the loss of our daughters. Hearts speak to hearts, and Miss Edith and I have a special connection for many right reasons.
Having a visit with Catharine Deitch on 4 August was a wonderful time. Catharine Deitch was a WAC sergeant stationed in Calcutta, at the allied headquarters for the China Burma India Theatre. Catharine was recently married when WWII broke out. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Catharine's husband, an ROTC graduate was drafted, and Catharine decided to enlist. She ended up shipping out a few days before her husband. Catharine and her husband raised four children and later caring for her oldest son after he was disabled while serving in combat in Vietnam. Catharine Deitch is a remarkable woman with a spirited outlook on life.
I will be spending time with the residents at The Armed Forces Home on November 17, 2015. Being invited to share my books and dialogue with the residents and the staff of AFRH is an exciting event to look forward to!
Most grateful, Glenna.