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Hickory Valley Retirement Community honors veterans

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012
Veteran Howard van Zant shows off mementos from his time in the military.
Veteran Howard van Zant shows off mementos from his time in the military.

Hickory Valley Retirement Community doesn’t just offer a place to live, it offers a way of life, a community-centered approach to retirement living that makes the staff and residents more like family than nurse practitioners and patients.

Every year for Veterans Day, the staff plans an event meant to honor all the veterans that call Hickory Valley Retirement home. During this year’s event, resident veterans were honored and presented with certificates by Hickory Valley Activity Director Melissa Gadd for their service to their country in the various branches of military.

Additionally, the Veterans Day celebration was accompanied by music from a pops orchestra, as it has been for many years, said facility Manager Tyner Brooks. The annual event is normally held for the veterans, but it is also a unique opportunity for their families — their sons and daughters, in addition to their caretakers — to honor them as well, Brooks added.

  • photo
    Fellow veteran Bob Barksdale also calls Hickory Valley Retirement Community home.
    Contributed photo

“The event is a really enjoyable way to honor the veterans and hear the many stories they have to tell and the honor and pride they display for having served our country,” he said.

One such story that is particularly unique is that of resident Howard van Zant, a World War II veteran who fought in the Army on the beaches of Normandy on that fateful June morning when more than 9,000 of his comrades lost their lives or were wounded. The night before, the then-24-year-old had boarded a ship destined for Omaha Beach in the company of the 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division on a mission which required one of the greatest conglomerations of military logistics and forces in history and is a hallmark in Hitler’s defeat.

Upon landing on the beach, van Zant saw signs warning of mines littered throughout the sand and heard gunfire from above that never ceased, he recalled. He managed to make it to the relative safety of a cliff but was then pinned down by heavy gunfire and could not advance due to the constant stream of bullets whizzing past him, he said.

Eventually, van Zant was able to fight his way out and later that night he rejoined his company, but “Everything was scattered out there,” he said. “We went two or three days not really knowing where we were."

Van Zant’s journey would then take him throughout France as he contributed to the endeavors at Saint Lo, which led to the advancement of Allied Forces throughout the country. In September 1945, van Zant’s World War II duties, which had taken him through France, Holland and Germany, ended and he was sent back home to Chattanooga, where he’d grown up.

The now-92-year-old is still enveloped by the breath of life he clung to so many years ago as his compatriots were falling and dying all around him. Still very energetic, van Zant participates in many of the activities available to him and his fellow Hickory Valley residents. Van Zant attends an exercise class three times a week, a Bible study group that meets every Thursday and a chorus group that meets once a week, and occasionally performs at various functions.

“Hickory Valley is a peaceful place to live,” he said. “I’ve been here four years. The atmosphere is pleasant and the nurses and attendants are

very nice and clean my apartment once a week.”

Quote of the week:

"Hickory Valley is a peaceful place to live,” he said. “I’ve been here four years. The atmosphere is pleasant and the nurses and attendants are very nice and clean my apartment once a week.” — Howard van Zant, Hickory Valley Retirement Community resident

The retirement community, which includes options for both assisted and independent living, is located at 6705 Ballard Drive. No matter which living situation one needs, there is a full range of dining options that include breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a yearly calendar of events for residents.

More Information

Call 423-855-0508 or visit to learn more.

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