By Kristy Ruppe Craddock, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Seven sons, three branches of military, two wars, over one hundred years of service. One of those sons was my father, the branch was Army and the war was Vietnam. My passion in honoring our veterans is a personal one.
Growing up, one my favorite stories was the love story of my parents. My father, just a young man of 20, and my mother 19, had a wedding set for December 30, 1969. Almost too cliché to believe, they met because my father was my mother’s milk man! As a young man in high school, he learned early on the important life lesson of earning his own money and saving for the future. One of his first jobs was delivering milk from the local dairy farm, and my mother’s family just happened to be one of his customers. Now this is where the story slightly varies given the teller, but I believe somewhere along the line, the two saw each other and took a fancy to the other. From that moment, the two were inseparable. One of my father’s favorite sayings was “My children are the milk man’s babies!”.
Fast forward through their traditional southern courtship, and the wedding date was set. Just a little over a month prior to his wedding, my father received word he was drafted by the Army for Vietnam. Like many stories which begin this way, panic and love took over, and my parents moved up their wedding to just days from his enlistment.
They had a weekend as a married couple before my father was gone. As a new bride and before too long, a soon to be first time mother, my mom was left behind, crippled with fear for my father’s safety. Many times in my life, I have tried to imagine this feeling as a new wife, and those emotions his parents went through as their baby son entered war at such a young age. Thankfully, my story ends happily, with his safe return to our family. Not every family gets this privilege.
Often in life, my father would share lessons learned during his time of service, with honor, respect and pride being the ones he spoke of most. Gary Michael Ruppe, or “Mike” as he was most affectionately known, was a great man, and his service was one of the many wonderful pages in the story of his life. I am thankful to have had a father like him.
The Ruppe family richly served the armed forces. Out of the 7 brothers, they collectively served over 100 years in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, holding many ranks of prestige. Their uncle served in WWII and had a heroic story of receiving a life-threatening injury in the line of fire and living to tell the story. We are a family of proud, patriotic service, and it is my honor to share this story and passion, while not having served myself.
To have the honor of witnessing a military funeral service is a surreal event. I had never had the opportunity myself until my father’s passing in 2014. I can still feel the emotions of the reverent Taps and presentation of the flag at his service. I cannot imagine a more respectful and loving way to show reverence to those who served our country. My father’s service was even more special as one of his elder brothers was in uniform and presented the flag to my mother. It was a very special moment and one I know made my father proud.
Of the 7 brothers, only 3 are still with us, carrying on this legacy. At my grandparent’s homeplace, our family has a memorial to the brothers, at the base of the American flag to show our appreciation of their service. Every time I see it, it humbles me to know I am a descendent of such brave and selfless men.
So to me, creating a Promise to Veterans was something that pulled at my soul. From the initial conversations within Commonwealth Senior Living and Hook Law Center, to the formal program rollout last week, I’ve felt my father’s and uncle’s presence many times. I know it’s the right, honorable promise to stand behind, and I do so humbly, with much gratitude and respect. Since joining the Commonwealth Senior Living team in May of 2016, I have been given the opportunity to not only follow my calling in working with seniors but also to make a difference in the lives of our Veterans.
Thinking about our breadth and depth as a company, we knew it was our responsibility to forge the path in creating a program exclusive for our Veterans in securing the best and most affordable care possible in their golden years – it’s what they deserve and it is our duty. This led us to the obvious partner in the Hook Law Center. While the Hook Law Center and Commonwealth Senior Living have always enjoyed a great working relationship and shared vision in serving seniors, they too come with the most experience, tenure and reputation in the area. For more than 80 years, HLC has been the pioneer in Elder Law. Most importantly they share the same level of commitment to honoring our Veterans as we do. In working with our partners at Hook Law Center, we created our Promise to Veteran’s to show our commitment to those who served our country with Honor.
So what is our Promise to Veterans?
The sacrifices our veterans and their spouses have endured bring with them certain benefits which should make life easier in their golden years. Commonwealth Senior Living and the Hook Law Center have come together to make it easier for veterans and their spouses in obtaining the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit (up to 4 times faster on average than applying for benefits without support).
This benefit can extend up to $21,000 per year for a veteran, $25,000 per year for a couple and $13,000 per year for a surviving spouse, and depending on the level of care needed. Our promise to veterans and their spouses includes the support of Hook Law Center supporting the filing of this benefit and also includes free consultations and preferred pricing for power of attorney, wills and estate preparation through their office.
The sacrifices our armed services have made for this country are many, and we felt it our duty to create a commitment to their care in the same light as their commitment to our freedom. Our promise to veterans and their spouses offers them a rate lock for life at any of our 24 Commonwealth Senior Living communities. This means you get peace of mind knowing that the rate on a veteran’s suite will never increase for as long as you live with us, an offer that only Commonwealth Senior Living can promise.
Lastly, our recognition to veterans is something we exercise daily and incorporate throughout the community. We honor our veterans with a Wall of Valor, recognize them with a star displayed by their front door, celebrate them with pinning ceremonies, and when they leave us, we show our reverence with military honors and a presentation of the flag to the family. In the coming month, all of our seven communities will proudly display the flags of our armed services out front with our American flag, as a reminder to our deep appreciation for the freedoms provided to our country through the bravery and service of our armed services. It is important to us that we’re honoring their service with the respect they deserve.
If you would like more information about this Promise to Veterans, please reach out to the community nearest to you.