By Nancy Price
For most Americans, Thanksgiving is about spending time with our loved ones: the family and friends for whom we are grateful. We enjoy a feast of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad, and, of course, the pumpkin pie, followed by watching football or classic Christmas movies. We chatter, laugh and remember the good times in our lives.
For others, Thanksgiving Day can be a lonely and depressing day if they are not surrounded by loved ones. Maybe their family lives far away, or they grieving the loss of a family member or friend.
Area resident Beth Vidales understands this feeling.
Seven years ago, Beth’s husband, Darryl “Doc” Martin, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force, passed away from Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He developed cancer as a result of exposure from Agent Orange.
“He had gotten a liver transplant when we reunited,” said Beth, who first met Doc in the 80s, when they briefly dated. They eventually went their separate ways. She had her own family until they met up again several decades later, after she was divorced. “He was never a complainer (but) he complained of stomach pains. His abdomen was extended, and he couldn’t get his pants on one day and he said, ‘honey, I’m not doing good,’” she recalled. “I took him to the VA, and he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He lived not quite a year after he was diagnosed.”
Beth, whose adult children now live away, decided to help others after her husband’s death by hosting Thanksgiving for anyone who was without family on the holiday. At that time, she was involved with the Ladies Auxiliary at the Whiteland VFW and invited veterans who were alone, in addition to neighbors without family.
“I invited several people but some of them hesitated to come to my house,” she said. “The most we had was eight people.” Some of the veterans were unsure of going to Beth’s house as they barely knew her.
“That’s when I transferred (to Greenwood VFW Post 5864). “I asked Steve Milbourn (commander of the Greenwood VFW), if I could start having it here and he said ‘absolutely.”
“I actually thought it was an excellent idea from the very beginning,” Milbourn said of Vidales’ idea. “One of our core ideals is to help veterans and their families and this goes along with that.”
Last year, 23 guests arrived at the Greenwood VFW. “Many soldiers have never been away from home, let alone by away from Christmas,” Milbourn said. “An invitation and free food is always wonderful. Likewise, it is always nice to have the families of our brothers and sisters in arms be a part of this type of celebration.”
Beth received some special help last year while preparing for the Thanksgiving meal from a local veteran who previously served in the 101st Airborne Division during the War in Afghanistan: Joe Vidales.
“We started talking in September and we had our first date in October,” she said. “As soon as we started talking, he said he knew that I was the one. Our first date was Oct. 23 and he said that night was when he knew he was in love with me.”
The newlyweds will once again host Thanksgiving this year at the VFW.
“Please join us on this day so that you will not have to be alone,” Milbourn said. “We would enjoy meeting people with ties to the military, men and women, and ‘breaking bread’ with them.”
The VFW welcomes those in need and/or without family.
Dinner includes turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, rolls, dressing, all the trimmings and complimentary soft drinks and coffee.
Donations are welcome to help offset costs.
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, noon-3 p.m.
333 S. Washington St., Greenwood
Please RSVP to Beth Vidales: (317) 250-7077, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.