‘We’re the Lucky’: Local Veterans Connect to Honor Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

Dan Orlowski plans to strike up a conversation that may bring up some tough memories, but he’s ready to do so as a way to connect with other veterans and honor service members who have died in conflict.

He resides in Revel Spokane, a self-governing community that will bring together a group of its veterans in a Memorial Day-themed “Vet Connect Conversation” on Tuesday. Using the Facebook portal, the event is intended to connect them with veterans of the company’s Revel Eagle facility in Idaho.

Vietnam War veteran Orlowski, 78, served in the US Air Force around this time and for a total of 15 years. Before the Air Force, he was in the Marine Corps for five years.

While stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam in 1968-69, the facility suffered multiple attacks, he said. Although he did not know the few people who died in the raids, Orlowski did know there had been loss of life. He worked as an avionics technician on the base planes and stayed there for about a year.

“Everyone’s insisting on us as heroes and stuff, and to me we were just survivors,” Orlowski said this week. “It is more important to honor the people who lost their lives there. Honestly, I can’t name names. I haven’t lost any close friends per se. But we lost people there in Bien Hoa. They bombed the base for about a full year.

Emotions grew when he described another veterans event he attended a few years ago. “I would like to mention that I attended an honor flight event,” he said. “For any vet, I highly recommend him.”

Inland Northwest Honor Flight is a non-profit organization that takes military veterans to Washington, DC, to see the memorial to the war the veteran fought in. It began to serve primarily WWII veterans, but also hosts Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. .

Orlowski said he left Spokane two or three years ago. In addition to seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he said he was moved by the welcome responses the veterans received. “There were a lot of people there who welcomed us, and that meant a lot because when a lot of us came back (from Vietnam) it wasn’t very good,” he said.

“We went to the wall, and it meant a lot. They had a few monuments there honoring different veterinarians. This is the accent. Of the people who have served, we are the luckiest. We went back home. But the guys who gave it their all are the heroes.

During his time as an infantryman in the Marine Corps, the conflict closest to the early 1960s was the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said. After a stint in the Air Force, he first served as a military police officer until he could undergo cross-training to become an avionics technician.

After retiring from military service, Orlowski worked for Boeing for over 12 years as a quality control inspector before retiring to Spokane with his wife, Diane. “My wife is from Spokane, and my last duty station was Fairchild Air Force Base,” he said. “I’m from Buffalo, New York, and I didn’t want to go back.”

Upon retirement, Orlowski remained active with racquetball and cycling. He recently rode 40 miles on his bike, from Argonne to Post Falls and back to the facility on the Centennial Trail. There are family here too, including Orlowski’s two sons and his wife’s three daughters.

Being somewhat new to Revel Spokane, and with the orientation year of the pandemic, he has only met a few other veterans at Revel Spokane, but event organizers are hopeful that more former military service members will be able to connect on Tuesday.

“In fact, we’re hoping a whole bunch of people will attend the event, and we’re organizing it now,” said Anna Havercroft, Director of Lifestyle at Revel Spokane. “We are going to set it up in our activity room called Revel Room.”

“It’s important that people connect with similar backgrounds and services because you never know who you’re going to meet on the other end of the phone. She will be the moderator to guide the conversations, with questions about each member’s military service, if they were in wars or conflicts, how long they served and where, and if Remembrance Day they remember. of someone in the military who died while serving.

“We’re going to ask them what their military responsibilities were, their best and worst memories, and do they still have friends from that time on, or have they met any veterans here who served in the same war? Havercroft said.

Revel spokeswoman Alyssa Lawrence said Revel hosted a similar veterans event in November involving two of its communities, one in Reno and another in Colorado Springs, and thanks to that, two veterans who didn’t ‘had never met before realized that they had both served at the same time. in Japan during World War II.

“Now these two vets have become friends who chat regularly and have developed a deep friendship,” she said. On Tuesday, all residents of both Spokane and Boise facilities will be able to view the event as a way to reflect and celebrate those in their community who have served, she said.

“Our goal with these Memorial Day ‘Vet Connect Conversations’ is to have a place where vets – like those at Revel Spokane – can meet other vets from a sister community of Revel and all share memories for. honor their fallen heroes, reflect on their service. and finally, make new friendships and deeper bonds. “

“It’s both a time of reverence and an opportunity to bond and also an opportunity to share cathartic and perhaps hard-to-revisit memories with other heroes,” Lawrence said.

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