Doug Bashore saw his share of tough situations in Vietnam. As a U.S. Navy medic he patched up and sutured some of the worst injuries on the front lines in one of America’s longest conflicts.
But on Thursday morning, as he sat in a second-floor hallway inside the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, he worked his way through a different kind of problem: shopping for a gift for his two little nieces. Thankfully, he has specialists taking care of the logistics.
“These little girls are so smart,” he said proudly. “Of course, not me. I’m pushing 80.”
Bashore was one of about 150 Spokane-area veterans who took advantage of the medical center’s “Gift Shop” event that ran from Sunday to Thursday. Like many others, he came up to the second floor after hearing an announcement on the hospital’s PA system – free gifts for veterans and their families, wrapped, bagged and ready to go.
Run by the American Legion Auxiliary, the world’s largest veteran organization for women, it’s held each year in cities and towns across the state and nation. All of the items are donated from members, their families and community members looking to spread the joy.
Barb Rutherford, 65, of Wenatchee, has been participating in some form or another for 16 years as a proud Legion devotee. Mostly, she prefers to wrap and bag the gifts around the holiday season, just as she did Thursday.
“This is a great way to be able to help the veterans who can’t get out and shop,” she said. “And the pleasure on their face. The smile on their face.”
To her left was 68-year-old Jane Montane from Ephrata, Washington, also wrapping and bagging. When she’d fill up a parcel ready to be taken home, she’d personally deliver it to the veteran in waiting.
“Marine daughter. Marine wife. Marine sister,” she told Bashore, tapping her chest with each recitation.
As the veterans and their families walked into the small room, they were greeted by holiday glee. Clothes, underwear, blankets, towels and jewelry. And for the children – toys, movies and books.
It wasn’t just children who were interested in the good stuff, though. Ed Schiffner, who was active in the Navy from 1958 to 1963, moseyed around the tables until he came upon a DVD copy of “Rocky 3” and “Rocky 4.” He snatched it up with delight.
“That’s to me,” he said. “From me, with love.”
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