Front Royal Hosts Veterans Appreciation Outing

Each year, the IWLA Chapter and the Front Royal Elks Lodge team up to host up to 40 Veterans from the Martinsburg, WV, Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) for a full day of outdoor activities.

In the morning the guests initially arrived at the beautiful, tranquil 155-acre secluded park that is home to the Warren County Chapter. A part of this property boarders the Shenandoah National Park. Their first glimpse of the Park was that of a large welcome banner prominently displayed in the parking area.

The visitors, all resident ambulatory patients at the Martinsburg hospital, participated in archery, fishing in a large, well-stocked pond, and some even went on a guided hike along the property’s scenic trails, led by Chapter President Harry Reed. Others simply relaxed and enjoyed the peaceful setting…that was periodically interrupted by whoops of delight as the guests began to pull in fish of various sizes. Prizes were awarded (on a somewhat loose basis) for the first, the largest, the most and the smallest fish. The fisherman and women caught numerous bass, trout, and a great many smaller pan fish. The excitement level was high and a good-natured competitive spirit was very much in evidence throughout the morning. Several of the younger veterans actually caught their first-ever fish at this outing…no doubt creating memories that will forever linger in their minds.

The IWLA Chapter provided refreshments for the guests, and at noon, when the time came to depart, there was an obvious reluctance to leave such a serene and relaxing venue. The buses then made the short trek to the Front Royal Elks Lodge where the Lodge House Committee and many volunteers had been busy preparing a hearty cookout luncheon. The Veterans were greeted with loud applause as they debarked from their buses. Lodge President Dennis Henline welcomed them and thanked them for sharing their day with the Front Royal community.

After a filling lunch, the guests were free to participate in several yard games (horse shoes, corn hole) and many engaged an exciting game of Trivia. The Veterans, Izaak Walton members, and Elks, plus numerous other volunteers – one of whom was a local 100-year-old lady veteran of WWII, who was warmly applauded by the VAMC veterans – engaged in a lot of interpersonal mingling and pleasant one-on-one discussions.

At the conclusion of the afternoon, arrangements had been made for a Front Royal Police escort, consisting of 3 police cruisers, to assist the VA buses in navigating the rush-hour traffic as they headed back to Martinsburg. Many of the Veterans felt a true sense of pride at receiving the police escort, while others voiced some light-hearted concern about having been shown out of town by a contingent of the local police force.

Numerous members of both the IWLA Chapter and the Elks Lodge, as well as many volunteers, including several children, from within the community, were present at both locations and helped make the day a wonderful success and permitted the tired, but happy Veterans to take away some tremendous memories.

Of note: One of the veterans who had completed his program at the Medical Center the day before this event, wanted so strongly to participate, that he had delayed his return to his home in New York state by one day, so he could attend. Prior to boarding his bus, he stated that, while he was anxious to be reunited with his family, he was extremely happy that he had made this fantastic trip to Front Royal and had experienced the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people…whether IWLA members or Elks, they were all Americans taking the time to sincerely thank these veterans for their service to our country.

The day’s activities were scheduled and coordinated by the Warren County (Virginia) Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America and Front Royal Elks Lodge Veterans Service Committee.