Flag display honors veterans who lived at retirement community

Looking ahead to Memorial Day, the father recognized his enduring gratitude for his son’s safe return from military service in Afghanistan. Bob Coppola, project manager at the sprawling Edgewood Retirement Community, gave his appreciation shape with a tribute. Ninety-one American flags now stand knee-high, staked in neat rows on the lawn behind the Edgewood clubhouse. The flags stirred in a cold rain Thursday, marked by names at their base. For two weeks they will remain. Tuesday morning, in a short ceremony the day after Memorial Day, residents and staff at the independent senior living community will read names of veterans who once lived at the center and have since died. “While they didn’t die out on the (battle)field, they certainly left a part of themselves there,” Coppola said. Unlike, Monday’s traditional Memorial Day observances that honor those who died in battle, the Edgewood ceremony pays tribute to the tradition and the former residents. It’s a gesture noticed by the current 300 Edgewood residents, especially among the 30 veterans in the community’s ranks.

The clubhouse is a hub of activity, home to the dining hall, gym, pool and bistro, as well as offices and activity rooms. The flags, seen from the lobby waving on the green back lawn, draw the eye closer. “I was so impressed, I wrote (Bob) a note, telling him how much I was moved by it,” said Nancy Ellis, a U.S. Navy veteran and Edgewood resident. Often people think of Memorial Day as summer’s kick-off and a day for picnics rather than a day to appreciate and remember, said Ellis. She served in the medical service corps from 1959-1961, and later worked as an occupational therapist and taught occupational therapy at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. Edgewood resident Herb Sawyer walked to the flags in the cold wind and rain on Thursday with Ellis and fellow resident and veteran Richard Kemp.

He said the weather reminded him of his days serving in the infantry. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and first served in 1946, and later served in the reserves. Sawyer later taught at Bentley University and was associated with Russian Studies Department at Harvard. “It’s a fine and great tribute both and thank you,” Sawyer said of the Edgewood field of flags. Kemp grew up in Michigan and from 1964-66 was a captain in the U.S. Army. A physician, he served at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. President Lyndon B. Johnson was frequent visitor to Walter Reed. Kemp, who later did work on standing anesthesiology, would talk to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Walter Reed.

Eisenhower was the supreme commander fo the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II. Kemp said there have been a good number of veterans at Edgewood since many people of retirement age had served in the military. “I think it is very appropriate,” Kemp said of the Edgewood flags. He knew several of the people who are remembered by the flags and markers. Coppola said he and his wife were on vacation in Maine when their son, Paul Coppola, then a college student at Merrimack College in 2009, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps without his parents’ knowledge.

He wanted to serve in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Paul Coppola, now married with children, was a combat engineer. His job was to disarm bombs. He lost friends, killed in the small forward operating base where he served in Afghanistan. He was twice injured and later received a Purple Heart. He was medically discharged in 2014 and suffers constant migraines due a head injury in the service. In addition to a roll call of the names memorialized on Tuesday, the Edgewood ceremony will include music and a short nondenominational prayer. Edgewood, which provides residences and services for retired people, and offers a continuum of care through long-term nursing, plans to hold their Memorial Day and veteran tribute in coming years, said Edgewood spokeswoman Kathleen D’Amico.

Article from Eagle Tribune