HANNIBAL | Members of the American Legion Post 55 Auxiliary showed their love for veterans and gratitude for their service during the group's second pancake and sausage breakfast on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the American Legion in Hannibal.
Victoria Ornelas, American Legion Auxiliary District 1 installing officer, said a steady crowd of veterans and family members visited for pancakes, sausage and camaraderie during what will become an annual event to show gratitude to veterans and their families. Each veteran and their wife received a pocket screwdriver set as a gift and children got comic books titled “I Pledge Allegiance” and small American flags. Everyone involved enjoyed the chance to visit and show appreciation to everyone who served.
“They've all done a lot for us for our freedom,” Ornelas said. “I just feel very fortunate that we still have some of them around.”
Veterans Dale Walden, Larry Carey and Leroy Garrison talked with one another, sharing stories and enjoying the camaraderie.
“The best part of it is being able to sit down with fellow veterans and talk about the wartime stories and all that kind of stuff, and be able to laugh about it,” Walden said. “Things were not laughable at the time.”
Walden and Carey served in the Navy, and Garrison and Ornelas served in the Army. Walden said “they had different elements to deal with,” and they talked about friends and family members who lost their lives to protect fellow Americans' freedom. They discussed how many soldiers sacrificed their lives in World War II during the pivotal Battle of the Bulge and battles in Normandy — Ornelas said 10,000 American troops were captured, or were killed in battle during the first two days in Normandy.
“Those old boys were tougher than nails,” Garrison said.
When veterans like Walden and Garrison returned from the Vietnam War, there weren't many opportunities to express what they had been through. Walden said that the breakfast offered a welcome chance to share the experiences and emotions tied to each veterans' service and the sacrifices they made.
“It's great to be able to get that out of our systems,” Walden said. “Most of us didn't have any debriefing or anything when we came back from Vietnam. They just cut us loose.”
Victoria Ornelas said the American Legion Post 55 Auxiliary plans to make the breakfast an annual tradition for veterans and their families, with a different gift to accompany the meal each year.
Jess Ornelas commended all the members of the auxiliary for their dedication, adding he would be accompanying his wife, Victoria, to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at the Missouri Veterans Home in Mexico, Mo.
“These are hard working ladies,” Ornelas said, motioning to his wife and fellow Auxiliary members Linda Garrison, Gina Walden, Carole Reading and Terri Maple.
Victoria Ornelas said all of the American Legion Auxiliary members shared the same mission for the event.
“We love our veterans,” Ornelas said. “That's why we do it.”