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Mom tells ‘Angel’ story at Veterans ceremony

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

November 8, 2006

A military mom whose severely wounded son was comforted by gifts from Soldiers’ Angels will share her story at the Veterans Day ceremony in Hood River on Saturday.

Rhetta Drennan of Vancouver, Wash., almost lost her son, Matthew, 26, when an anti-tank mine exploded under the Humvee that he was driving near Kirkuk in Iraq. While the Oregon Army National Guard Specialist was awaiting transport to the United States from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, he was kept warm by a blanket that had been crafted by Angels. He was also given a backpack of emergency supplies from the volunteer group.

Drennan lost his leg due to the combat injury and joins his mother in public appearances to underscore how important civilian support has been to his morale. In fact, Rhetta was so touched by the Angels’ care of her son that she became the public relations coordinator for Oregon and Washington.

“I think that at first it was really heartwarming that people were taking care of Matt but that is something that you sort of expect in the circumstances,” said Rhetta. “But what makes my heart so proud of who we are as Americans is that the support continues to go on.”

The Drennans will be introduced at the annual Nov. 11 ceremony in downtown Hood River. The event takes place at Overlook Memorial Park and the junction of State and Second streets will be closed to traffic for the one-hour program.

Also present will be local “Angel” Terri Hansen, who will be manning a table so community members can sign holiday cards. The cards at the Nov. 11 service are being provided by American Legion Post 22 and will be sent to active duty members of the armed forces.

To date, Hansen has collected more than 3,000 cards from area individuals and students. She will ship the Christmas well-wishes and about 200 packages of donated goods off to military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq on Nov. 20.

Patrick Scranton, the county’s new Veteran Service Officer, takes the role of master of ceremonies at the service. He will preside over the presentation of Blue Star Banners provided by the Legion for parents of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

“I would like to stress to the entire community the importance of putting political views aside and braving the weather to attend this ceremony. Our veterans stepped forward to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and sometimes, shamefully, take for granted,” said Scranton.

“These soldiers are not anonymous cogs in a larger machine, they are our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors — they are our community. So, let’s pay tribute to the men and women who have returned — and the ones who never will.”

Pastor David Paulson from Asbury Methodist Church delivers the invocation. Hood River City Manager Bob Francis then reads the names of individuals inscribed on bricks purchased for installation at the memorial park during 2006.

Civic responsibility will be the topic addressed by Oregon Rep. Patti Smith, who takes the podium as the keynote speaker.

Other highlights of the program include an expected flyover by the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard and appearance by a contingent of the Patriot Guard Riders. The new Gorge Brass Quintet also plays the National Anthem and an Armed Forces Salute to the veterans in attendance.

*****

American Legion Post 22 and Elks Lodge 1507 have teamed up to provide a breakfast prior to the ceremony. The morning meal will be served from 8-10:30 a.m. in the lodge at the intersection of Third Street and Cascade Avenue.

Current Legion members will not be charged for the buffet that includes ham, eggs, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, coffee and juices. The cost to other community members at the door is $6 for adults and $3 for children under the age of 12.

*****

The Hood River Valley Sweet Adelines pay respects to veterans at the Harmony Harvest concert on the evening of Nov. 11.

The program in the Hood River Middle School auditorium begins at 7 p.m. and includes God Bless America, Battle Hymn of the Republic, and an Armed Forces medley saluting the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Also appearing during the evening that features a wide selection of music will be barbershop quartets: Take Note, The Dean’s List, The Fourth Dimension and Fourth Avenue.

Cost is $12 with a $2 discount for veterans. Tickets can be purchased at Waucoma Book Store in Hood River, Klindt’s in The Dalles and Sterling Savings Bank in White Salmon.

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