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Resident Spotlights

Oak Trace Veterans Reflect

Alex Mankivsky is more well-traveled than your average Oak Trace resident. The Navy veteran served from Feb. 1952 to Dec. 1955, training for three months in Great Lakes, Illinois, before climbing aboard a steam engine to make the overnight trip to Virginia to begin his service. That was nearly 70 years ago, but Alex can still vividly recall cruising across the Atlantic Ocean in an aircraft. He was stationed primarily in the Mediterranean, but his service also took him to France, Italy, North Africa, Spain and Greece during the six months he was overseas.

Today, he calls the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, home, specifically our senior living community at Oak Trace. He is far from the only veteran among our residents, which is why Veterans Day is a holiday that holds a special place of significance in our community.

When the calendar turns to Nov. 11 each year, Alex’s eyes are on the Veterans Day parades, but his thoughts are always very much with the men and women who have served and protected our country, especially the ones who never made it home. It’s a somber celebration for many, but it’s a day that has different meaning for different people, which is why we took the opportunity to sit down with Alex and the other veterans in our community to talk about Veterans Day.

What Veterans Day Means to Our Community Veterans

There isn’t a specific memory that stands out to Jim Sullivan, but rather a mindset. The Oak Trace resident served in the Army from 1952 to 1954. He was stationed in Alabama, where he always felt like he had to be on his best behavior for fear of being sent overseas.

Jim does not look back on his service with rose-colored glasses, steadfast in his belief that there are no winners in war, only suffering for the soldiers and their families on both sides of the conflict. But he has nothing but respect for veterans both in the U.S. and around the globe.

“All service men and women do whatever they are called on to do. No excuses,” Jim says.

On Veterans Day, he’ll get together with his friends to share a few drinks and swap stories about their time in the service. It’s an enduring tradition that is likely shared by a vast number of veterans across the country who think of the holiday as a reunion of sorts.

You don’t have to look very far to see how other veterans honor Veterans Day.

Navy veteran Jim Leichti, also a resident of Oak Trace, spends the day at a ceremony honoring those who have served. It’s a tradition that has blessed him with fond memories, including the year when he walked to Independence Park in Chicago with his mother for a ceremony.

The common theme among our community veterans seems to be that Veterans Day is about honor. No matter where they served, from the Kansas National Guard to the Army Reserve, they all share the same debt of gratitude for their comrades in arms. They may not have all had the same experiences, but they all understand the sacrifices one must make to serve.

Veterans Day is a day to collectively make sure those sacrifices never fade from memory.

For Leroy Pickett, that means putting out flags every Veterans Day. That is how Leroy, who served in the Kansas National Guard long before he called our community home, pays tribute to the men and women who have served, including his own family members who served at Pearl Harbor.

So whether you’re attending a parade or planting flags outside your home, don’t forget that it’s not about how you celebrate Veterans Day. It’s about remembering who you are honoring and the sacrifices they and their families made to preserve our way of life.

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