ANTIOCH – Erasto Cortez joined the Marines right out of high school. He joined because his time there would be demanding and disciplined, and he would learn about respect and hard work, he said.
Today, the 63-year-old Marine veteran lives at the Community Center of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. He spends his days making crafts and reading history books because “history defines people,” he said, and he likes to learn as much as he can about it. Occasionally, he picks up a fiction book, too and each day he walks six miles to stay fit.
This month, Cortez also enjoyed a trip to the Golden Corral in Kenosha for a breakfast provided for veterans by the members of the Antioch VFW Post 4551.
“I found it pleasurable,” Cortez said of the trip. “It breaks the routine of the place.”
Although Cortez likes living at the community center and said many outings are provided to places such as the movie theater and ball games, he said the gesture the Antioch VFW shows to them by treating them to a breakfast each month is greatly appreciated because, “It shows we’re not forgotten.”
Antioch VFW member Carl Sorensen, an Air Force veteran, said the breakfast is just one of the ways in which the post “gives back and takes care of their brothers and sisters who have served.”
Other ways, he added, are by inviting the veterans each month to play bingo and win cash prizes.
“These events we hold for the vets is just a way to get them out of their rooms and their regular routines and have a little fun,” Sorensen said.
At the monthly breakfasts, 20 to 25 veterans take the trip that allows them to enjoy spending time outside and among the camaraderie of some of the Antioch VFW volunteers who make the trip with them. Also, “It fills their tummies with something good to eat,” Sorensen said.
On a recent trip to the restaurant some veterans prefered to sit alone to enjoy their eggs and toast with coffee, while others enjoyed sitting together to socialize as the wait staff periodically passes by to refresh their drinks. The breakfast event displays the respect the VFW members have for the men and women who like them, have served the country.
Supervisor of recreational therapy Sean H. Gartland said the trip gives the veterans “stimulation and a change of scenery.”
“We do excellent health care, but an important part is quality of life and through our own outings and the ones provided by the VFW, we keep our promise to the veterans to care for them," Gartland said.
Sorensen said the money used for the monthly breakfast comes from fundraisers the Antioch VFW holds each year.
“We use what we fundraise for events for the veterans,” Sorensen said. “That’s why we can use just about any thing that people want to give, cash donations or volunteer their time.”
Cortez, who proudly wears his Marine cap wherever he goes, including to the breakfast, said the Antioch VFW should keep up the good work in helping fellow veterans and that he’s thankful for what they do.
“It makes us feel not alone," Cortez said. "Thanks to them from my heart."