Hallway of remembrance arranged for veterans
Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM
● By Keyra Kristoffersen
Pieces from William Basset’s time in the military as part of the Walk of Remembrance. (Sagewood)
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For the second year in a row, Sagewood at Daybreak honored its resident veterans and their spouses by celebrating Veterans Day with a two-day “Walk of Remembrance” through its halls as well as a special dinner.
“I think it’s a really cool thing to bring back what happened, what they did there and see how many people really did give so much of their lives for these things,” said Kelsey Meha, activities director. ”Lots of times you see the photos, but you don’t see an actual uniform or medals.”
Currently, more than 50 veterans reside at Sagewood, with another 50 spouses of deceased veterans living there as well. That’s more than half of the population of residents. Celebrating their sacrifice of both soldiers and the spouses who either waited for them at home or moved around with them is central to Sagewood’s culture.
“We try and bring in as many people as we can to really celebrate our veterans,” said Meha.
Along with a dinner and morning flag ceremony provided by the Taylorsville High Junior ROTC, the Walk of Remembrance, a temporary museum, was set up through the halls showcasing clothing and memorabilia provided by the resident veterans and their families along with photos and descriptions of their time in the military.
Medals, photos, uniforms and keepsakes from several wars and places all over the world were set out for anyone to see from Nov 10 through Nov.11.
One of those residents is Troy Roper, who was a paratrooper in the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the United States Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. Roper said the Army lied to him because he never got the muscles they promised when he accidentally volunteered for jump school, though he did get the chest hair, he said.
While in Vietnam, Roper was exposed to Agent Orange, which led to extensive eye surgery. The chemical also left him with nodules in his lungs, and last year, he underwent a seven-hour heart surgery. In 2005, he was in a motorcycle accident that left him with only a 2 percent chance of living, but he eventually ended up in a veterans’ nursing home.
In 2015, he moved to Sagewood where he said he loves Sagewood, though he’s mad because of the 15 pounds he’s gained since. His health is great, though, and he just received an award for 4,000 volunteer hours at the Veterans Affairs signed by President Barack Obama.
Roper travels to the Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake one to three days a week where he takes care of his health and also teaches disabled veterans how to travel by Frontrunner and TRAX.
“I’m a pretty adventurous guy; ‘no’ is not a part of my vocabulary,” said Roper, who spent his time skiing before his accident. He wore his 173rd hat for the ceremony. “I did my time; it was quite an experience.”
Wayne Bott is a World War II veteran and has been a Sagewood resident since 2016. Bott joined the Army out of high school in 1943, completed basic training in Georgia and arrived on Utah Beach at Normandy France a few days after the initial D-Day landing in June 1944. He spent his time marching alongside tanks as they followed General George S. Patton through Belgium all the way to Czechoslovakia to meet the Soviet Union Army.
“We sat up on a hill outside of Plauen (Germany); the bombers were coming over every night, all night long, bombing the city,” said Bott, remembering the small town on the modern-day border of Bavaria and the Czech Republic.
Bott said in some places, nothing in the city stood over 4 or 5 feet tall, but as they travelled deeper into Europe, the enemy soldiers would pull back from towns rather than fight and possibly destroy them, so they were actually beautiful.
In one area, a prisoner of war camp was set up right in the middle of a railroad station with a large P.O.W. sign painted above it.
“I think it was deliberately put there because they wouldn’t bomb the railroad station,” said Bott.
Bott said it was a long trip across Europe, but they were able to do a lot of clean up after battles had finished raging.
“All in all it was, I guess it was a good education for a guy who grew up in a farm town where everything was quiet and peaceful,” said Bott, who was raised in Payson. As an adult, he spent 60 years in the same house in Murray before moving to Sagewood.
Along with photos and other pieces of memorabilia, Bott submitted a regimental history book with a history of where he went and what he did in the military.
Residents and their families were invited to attend the activities. Meha said the event may be open to the public in the future.