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The five men could sit around the table and swap war stories all day and it would be enjoyable.
"Honor among warriors" is the maxim of the Hillsboro Avamere Cadre, retired Lt. Col. Bob Lance said. Lance, 93, held out a crumpled piece of paper with an almost apocryphal tale of former World War II combatants who defied orders to kill their enemies and lived to meet again decades later.
From the mountains of France and World War II through the bitter winters of the Korean War and into the long morass of the Vietnam War, the group share a common experience regardless of the conflict they endured or the service branch for which they risked life and limb.
"You might be in the Navy, might be the Army," said former U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Bob Young, 82. "But you're military. That's it. You're brothers right there."
They meet once a month at the Hillsboro senior living center they call home to laugh, occasionally talk politics, experience the camaraderie of being around fellow veterans and share stories of events that for some, still haunt them decades later.
There's also a new mission: Expand awareness of the benefits available to surviving veterans' spouses.
Sporting a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap and black glasses near the brim of his nose, Stan Parrott said that's partly the reason he organized the monthly meetings. "Believe me, Uncle Sam doesn't come out and say, 'Hey you've got this coming,'" said Parrott, 84. "You've got to beat on his door, am I right?"
Parrott's wife, Mary, was one of two long-time military wives in attendance at a meeting this week. Nancy Finster, 80, recently lost her husband, Fred. Finster came to hear about what benefits she might have coming.
The group wants other veterans in the community to attend their meetings, too. Everyone is welcome, Parrott said. They're hoping to secure speakers from veterans service organizations to inform residents of rights available under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Washington County is home to some 37,000 veterans, according to the county's department on Disability, Aging & Veteran Services. An estimated 104,144 veterans 70 or older live in Oregon, according to U.S. Census records from 2010.
The state has some 23,837 WWII veterans and 31,945 Korean War survivors, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The kinship shared among veterans is hard to replicate in civilian life, Parrott said. "We speak the same words but we speak a different language."
Jerry Carry, 77, said he probably misses the camaraderie of the military the most.
"You get acquainted with everybody in the unit," he said. "You're all friends."
Mary Parrott reflected on her 61 years traveling the world with Stan.
"It was an interesting life," she said. "We had a lot of good times, a lot of bad times, a lot of hard times."
|Retired from Military|