| by Shenali Waduge
(January 25, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The only permanent thing about life is that it is impermanent. At some point in time we all age & become elders. We are today enjoying the fruits of freedom as a result of the sacrifices made by our war heroes. Many have paid the supreme sacrifice, others remain injured and feeble. Amongst them are the old veterans some of whom find themselves alone as circumstances have not been in their favor. As a nation we can never forget the sacrifices of our war heroes be they dead, alive, injured or old.
It was to pay tribute to the war veterans of World War 2 & post-war ex-servicemen that inspired the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association to set up a “Veterans Home”. The “Veterans Home” became a reality when Mr. Bharatha Wickremasinghe came forward to donate his ancestral home along with 2 acres of surrounding land in Bolagala, Katana.
|“Meet Hamish formerly of the Navy
who will be celebrating his 90th
birthday on 23 June”
The home was established in 1987 and it is certainly no ordinary veterans home. It is the home for retired members of armed forces some of these veterans as old as 92 years.
Anyone visiting the Veterans Home will take home with them fond memories and plenty of stories. The most memorable take away is the warmth of the hospitality shown something rare to come by these days.
Essentially a day spent with these war veterans is enough to understand the care and the passion with which the veterans are being looked after. It takes much more than simple administration to run a home and Nelson David the present Resident Manager and Lt. Pemsiri Seneviratne are doing a yeoman’s service. There are no rules except that all must sit & eat together!
There are 20 such residents living in either chalets which are sharing or single or dormitories given their individual choice. Accommodation with food will range from Rs.4000 to Rs.10,000 to be deducted from one’s pension while a special arrangement prevails for world war 2 war veterans.
Anyone wanting to know how it was like to fight during world war 2, the type of counter insurgency training given or just to spend time with these veterans spending a day at the veterans home is a wonderful way of going back in time. There are plenty of memorabilia as well. Asked about the fete of our own soldiers in ridding terrorism the old timers were full of praise for their achievements. Many of these veterans spend their time gardening, reading, playing cards or watching tv. Inside the comfort of their “home” they keep their belongings in impeccable condition.
While numerous donors have contributed towards making the veterans home as comfortable as possible for the war veterans, the Rex Nathanielsz Memorial Accommodation is worthy of mention as it was built with the sole contribution of a magnanimous donor – LCdr(Retd) Marty Somasundaram a member of the SLESA, Australia at a cost of Rs.9m in memory of his parents.
Looking after 2 acres of land & property is no easy endeavor and there are only 2 cooks, a gardener and a driver. There are some comforts that can be improved and it is here that we the public can come forward. They don’t ask for luxuries and much of the comforts they presently enjoy have been given by well wishers.
The present armed forces have certainly not forgotten their old colleagues. Various units of the navy, airforce & army do send provisions even so far as to send units who come to spend the day and cook a meal for these war veterans. There are even surprise visits when Lt. Pemsiri Seneviratne celebrating his 75th birthday bash with the residents saw the current naval commander Vice Admiral Somathilake Dissanayake arrive to join in the fun. An officer visits monthly to do a medical checkup while a former war veteran “Tony” takes care of the daily medical needs of his colleagues.
A thought goes a long way and well wishers can opt to provide care to these veterans in numerous ways big or small.
The Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association comprises 30,000 members and expanding. The SLESA has various chapters across the world and these members have all contributed in various ways. The Veterans Home in Katana is just one home for us to pay our tributes to retired war veterans who served our nation. It is upto us to think of ways to show that we have not forgotten their service to the nation. Members of the private sector are encouraged to steer some of their CSR initiatives towards these veterans.
Speak to the Resident Manager Mr. T. N.David on 0094312269364 and see what contribution you can make. Cheques are to be written to the “SLESA home for elders” fund and sent to the Secretary General Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association, 29/1/, Bristol Street, Colombo 1. There is also the Sir John Kotelawala Memorial Hall with a capacity to hold 100 guests is available for hire to hold conferences, meetings, get togethers at a reasonable rate.
No longer do I see my friends who once marched by my side,
No longer can I hear the sound of voices raised in pride,
No longer do I see my family, I am now forgotten.
No longer can I look after myself, I am now feeble.
Can I look forward to friends, I am now old
Can I look forward to a new family, I hope so.
Will you, at least remember this war hero now grown old!
|” This is where the war veterans eat meals together”|
|“a twin chalet”|