As WWII Marine veteran Ted Estridge neared the end of his life, he wanted to share how Christ had helped him overcome alcohol addiction and the trauma he lived through during the war. Finding Christ’s love led him to serve as a missionary among the very people he had resented while he served. Philanthropist Elaine Oakes helped Estridge complete his video testimony in April 2019 through Forever Young Senior Veterans, an organization that helps local veterans heal and gain closure by returning to the places where they had fought.
The filming experience with Estridge gave Elaine an idea — one that she hoped Forever Young Senior Veterans would like as well. “We really wanted them to expand their mission to include preserving veterans’ stories for future generations, but they didn’t want to do that, and that’s ok,” Elaine said. “They do what they do extremely well, and so we decided to start our own organization, Honored Legacies for Veterans. Preserving their legacies and getting them in front of students is a driving force for us.”
Honored Legacies for Veterans began in January 2020 with a mission to document and preserve veterans’ stories for future generations, especially the stories of WWII veterans many of whom are in their 90’s. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports approximately 300,000 WWII veterans are still alive.
With a roster of 80 to 90 veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars and 20 to 25 WWII veterans, Elaine, along with her co-founder and board member Chris Batté and board member Larry Vannoy, planned monthly activities and events for local veterans. But just as things were rolling along, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, causing the leadership team to cancel in-person events and find new ways to connect with local veterans.