When Memorial Day is every day

first_imgMemorial Day is every day for Martha Smalley and Ethel Nolet, too. The two widows throw the cake and ice cream birthday parties at the nursing home. Their late husbands, Cliff Smalley and Gordon Nolet, spent a lot of time volunteering at the VA. The least they can do is carry on for them, their widows said. “We know our husbands would be proud of us,” Martha says. “It was important to them that veterans who had no family had someone visit them every week. “It’s an incredible feeling seeing the smiles on the faces of these men in the nursing home when you sing `Happy Birthday’ to them – let them know someone still cares and is thinking about them.” Memorial Day is every day for Dom Agatiello, 84, a World War II veteran wounded in combat. Proudly, he will tell you he never rose past the rank of private first class in the four years he served. “I never wanted to be the guy giving the orders,” he said, laughing. “Look at me now. I’m still taking orders more than 60 years later as the gofer around here.” But he wouldn’t have it any other way, Dom said, turning serious. There’s something special about being a VA volunteer, something he’s missed a lot since his wife passed away seven years ago. “All of us have lost someone we loved,” he said. “This is our family now. Right here.” Up the back stairs of the old, brick VA building where every day is Memorial Day. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. dennis.mccarthy@dailynews.com (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2So, five days a week, she climbs the back stairs at Building 20 at Sepulveda VA to work as a volunteer – in her own small way making good on a promise she made to young widows 36 years ago. She’ll pass Nate Elbaum and his wife, Rose, in the hallway of this old brick building where it’s Memorial Day every day. At 92, Nate is the oldest volunteer here and one of the most active. On Mondays, he deals poker in the nursing home, and on Wednesdays, he and Rose run the bingo games. The rest of the week, the Jewish war veteran who was a Navy radio man in World War II makes the rounds of the nursing home just sitting and talking to old vets on their last stop – making sure they’re getting what they need. “Life is more than just taking care of yourself,” Nate said, getting ready to make the rounds with Rose. “It’s about serving others. I’m not through serving my country yet.” They all have their own reasons for climbing these back stairs to work in the old, brick building where every day is Memorial Day. For Becky James, it’s a promise she made to Vietnam War widows in 1973 and 1974 as she handed them a folded flag at their husbands’ grave sites. “Almost all the women were young wives with children,” she said, climbing the stairs. “I cried at every one.” James was a young Air Force honor guard sergeant at March Air Force Base near Riverside. With each folded flag came the promise the country would never forget their husband, their dad. last_img