Chaplain’s Corner: Thank You to Veterans

By Sarah Sexton | Publish Date July 01, 2024

Each year around Memorial Day and the July 4th holiday, I remember my family members who served in the military. My family’s ancestors were not in this country early enough to have fought in the American Revolution or the War of 1812, but there are legends of distant relatives who “might” have been in the Civil War. My dad and his older brother were in the Alabama National Guard unit that was the last horse cavalry unit in Birmingham. With the beginning of WWII, that unit was transformed into an air defense artillery unit which eventually served in the Pacific. My dad did not serve. Although he had been in the Guard, when it came time to activate the unit, he failed his physical. He had fallen out of a tree as a child and one leg was a little bit shorter than the other; he never noticed. My uncle saw action, survived, and made a career in the Army. His son, my cousin Chip, grew up wanting to be in the Army. His wish was fulfilled during the Vietnam era. Chip was an Airborne Ranger and did three tours of combat in Vietnam. Like his father, he survived and returned home. One of his medals was a Purple Heart.

Unlike our cousin Chip, my brother, who also joined the Army during Vietnam, was stationed in Germany for his entire active duty. When I turned 18, I registered for the draft and was granted a school deferment for being a college student. During my college days, the lottery was instituted; My number was high enough to get me through college and into seminary. Then our troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. At one time, while in seminary, I considered military chaplaincy, but did not pursue it. That war was over. I naively thought the need for military chaplains was also over.

I am thankful that I did not have to serve in combat. All of the soldiers, Marines, pilots and sailors that I know who did, and survived, came through it changed. Many had difficulty adapting to peace time life. We are still seeing that with veterans today. I also know a few, a very few, who were in combat and came through better for it. One friend had a so-called “fox hole” conversion and entered seminary after serving; he recently retired after working as a hospital chaplain for thirty years.

At times, I feel guilty for not serving. I passed my physical. I could have volunteered. Maybe what I feel is akin to survivors’ guilt. I was not spared because of my virtue, or because I was smarter than those who were drafted. I don’t feel right saying it was the providence of God that saved me. And yet, I am thankful. I confess there is a great deal about this life that I don’t understand. I suppose that is all part of why I respect all those who have served and who currently serve in the military. They did something I was not willing to do, and I am thankful for their sacrifice.




The Residents

Our residents come from different backgrounds and bring their unique qualities, talents, and life experiences to complete the Kirkwood community. Here are just a few reflections from some individuals who call Kirkwood their home.

My time at Kirkwood was spectacular; they taught me how to walk again. The staff was outstanding, and the care was beyond reproach. When I arrived, I had a long way to go. I was very sick. The first night, they had to lift me as I could not move by myself. When I left, they were chasing me down the hallway. They taught me how to perform the activities of daily living again. It was the best care I could have prayed for, and on top of that, the food was spectacular.

Eli Gold Past Resident

I fell in love with the cottage and the view from my back porch. I am excited to have a yard for Ginger, my poodle, to play in and my own garage, all within an established retirement community!

Charlotte Hamilton Current Resident

My husband and I looked at a number of places when deciding to move to a retirement community. For the most part, we found communities that said, ‘We’re going to take care of you.’ But Kirkwood was different. It wasn’t just about taking care of us. It was also about having fun, having friends, and living life to the fullest. The attitude at Kirkwood was positive and the atmosphere was comforting. We simply couldn’t resist. Without a doubt, the location was ideal. The Cahaba Room that overlooks the river, the mountains, the trails – there were just so many things about life. The community was lively. It was alive.

Alice Brooks Current Resident

We realized we were approaching an age where we might need more assistance than what just downsizing could provide. Knowing we have my sons nearby and the levels of care should we need it is comforting, and the beautiful hillside, river, and the woods makes it that much more appealing. We don’t know of any other community that has the woods, the various levels of care, and so many different amenities.

Phyllis and John Guschke Current Residents

We were moving my parents down from the Cleveland area to be near us. I looked at almost every retirement place in the Birmingham area. The second I turned into Kirkwood’s drive and drove up the hill, I knew that I’d found the perfect place for my parents to live in Alabama. In the six years that my parents have been at Kirkwood, I have always felt nothing but love and helpfulness from every staff member. Everyone is always helpful with a pleasant attitude. You can truly see and feel the family atmosphere. I’m happy that my parents can call Kirkwood their home.

Brenda Sheehan Kirkwood family member

When we learned that Cedar Ridge was being developed, that seemed to fit our needs very well. It is the ideal place for the next phase of our retirement.

Carol and Arthur Stephens Current Residents

One thing that we feel is very important here at Kirkwood by the River is the relationship that we have between the staff and the residents. They are dedicated to making our life here as safe and secure and pleasurable as possible. That goes a long way.

Fred Rogers Current Resident

The community's cottage living surrounded by a wooded, natural environment with access to future healthcare services is what attracted us to Kirkwood!

Rick and Jane Ricketts Current Residents