Decorated veterans coming to Clackamas County, Portland
Remembering America's Heroes is hosting a lineup of some of the most decorated veterans in the country as part of a single Clackamas event honoring over 500 veterans from World War II to Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson (at 96, one of the only surviving Tuskegee airmen), 1st Lt. Marcella LeBeau (a 99-year-old WWII Army nurse who served in Normandy) and Master Sgt. Chris Spence (former Green Beret in Afghanistan featured in the film "12 Strong") are among the VIP guests who have confirmed their plans to attend. Health concerns may lead to last-minute cancellations for veterans in their 90s.
"In the sunset years of my life, it was a great honor [to receive the invitation]," LeBeau said.
Scott Keller, chair of the RAH advisory board, says the Clackamas County-based nonprofit group is focused on connecting veterans with high school students across Oregon under the leadership of Executive Director Ken Buckles.
RAH has its roots in 1996, when Buckles was a coach at Milwaukie High School and started annual Living History Day events there. Buckles founded RAH as a nonprofit in 2002 and has reached thousands of students with programming.
"RAH provides education to youth and the community so they can understand and appreciate the value of freedom and its cost," Keller said. "At the end of the day, the veterans say that they want the kids to consider doing something bigger than themselves to make a difference."
This work has received commendations from many school officials, students and veterans, including the former Tuskegee airman who will be visiting Clackamas.
"Operating primarily during the week of Veterans Day, the [RAH] program assists in showing the thanks and appreciation to those who have served and sacrificed for America," Jefferson said.
James Zea of the Milwaukie High School Class of 2000, started helping RAH in 1996 to experience stories and meet numerous veterans from different times of history.
"It was great to be a part of something that is so memorable all these years later," Zea said.
RAH benefit receptions on Nov. 4 and 7 for the veterans in Clackamas and Portland have sold out, but a Wall of Honor with photos and information about thousands of U.S. military personnel killed in action between 2001 and 2016 will be on display to the public at Camp Withycombe, 15300 S.E. Minuteman Way, Clackamas. Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 6, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 7, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 8.
Originally created in 2003 by Alicia Tallman for her senior project at Milwaukie High School, the display was updated by her sister, Kelly Tallman, until nonprofit organization Vets Helping Vets HQ took over in 2014.
The display has to close to the public early on Nov. 7 so that Camp Withycombe can prepare to welcome the veterans with a line of Patriot Riders and music by Portland Police's Highland Guard that will play as guests arrive.
Punky Scott of the Bomber Restaurant in Oak Grove is catering the events.
For more information, visit rahusa.us.