If behind every man in is a strong woman, it’s certainly true for veterans and their significant others.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 922 held a Veterans Day ceremony in front of the Pendleton Pioneer Chapel Saturday morning, a gathering where the wives of former servicemen filled an important role.
The ceremony included music and a speech by World War II veteran Bob Stangier, who told the approximately 75 people assembled about the significance of Veterans Day.
At the center of the program was a laying of the flowers in front of the stone monuments to every Umatilla County soldier who was killed since World War I. But the individuals who walked solemnly to each marker weren’t members of the post, but the female-driven VFW auxiliary.
Auxiliary member Maxine Tangney laid down her bouquet of red, white and blue flowers in front of the Korean War memorial. The wife of Tom Tangney, Maxine said she brought flowers to that particular stone because of her husband’s brother Clarence, who died during the Korean War.
Dinah Hemphill, the wife of Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hemphill, also took part in the flower ceremony, laying her bouquet in front of the list of Vietnam casualties.
“I always get tears in my eyes,” she said.
Both women are members of the VFW auxiliary, a club for women who are direct relatives of VFW members. Maxine said that the auxiliary helps with VFW’s various functions and fundraisers, like the Cowboy Breakfast during Round-Up. The auxiliary also spearheads its own activities like trying to stoke patriotism in schoolchildren by distributing pencils with the Pledge of Allegiance on them.
Tom said he and his wife supported each other throughout their tenures in the VFW, noting that Maxine has been recognized by the Oregon VFW for her work. Although Dinah didn’t meet Chuck until after the Vietnam War, Tom and Maxine were high school sweethearts when he was deployed to Korea. Despite the war an ocean away and Tom unable to write home often, Maxine said she didn’t worry too much because she was busy with nursing school.
Maxine and Tom got married upon his return, and have now been wed for 64 years. Longer than many of the Veterans Day ceremony attendees have been alive, Maxine quipped.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.
The story has been updated to reflect the type of pencils Maxine Tangney distributed to schoolchildren and the frequency in which Tom Tangney was able to write home.