A February 2006 trip
to Boise by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: A gorgeous Sunday in February brought Mom and me out with our dogs, Loki and Katie, to historic Fort Boise and the Idaho Veterans Home.
I have been to the Fort Boise and the Idaho Veterans Home and Hospital a couple of times before to visit my friend Leslie's Dad, a Korean War veteran who lives in the veterans home on the grounds, and I thought it would be a great place to take our dogs, Loki and Katie, for a walk as a change of scenery from their usual walking route in our neighborhood. Mom, Loki, Katie, and I were not disappointed when we arrived on an unusually sunny Sunday in February.
The Idaho Veterans Home and Hospital is located on the grounds of Fort Boise, the historic fort that was built in 1863 for US soldiers assigned here to protect northwestern settlements from Native American attacks. The old buildings, along with many new buildings that blend in with the old architecture that were once military establishments, are now several medical treatment and administrative buildings for the Veterans Administration. These buildings are built on a beautiful park that is open to the public as well as the veterans who reside in the nursing and veterans homes. Upon arriving at the park Loki and Katie realized that their final destination didn't end with a shot in their rumps, and they were out of the car as fast as an Olympic downhill skier out of the the start gate. But Loki and Katie didn't miss any gates! HA HA! By the time Mom and I got to the stairs leading to many of the old buildings and walking path, Loki and Katie were halfway up the stairs and checking out the surroundings.
Fort Boise really shows its colors on July 4, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day when several veterans come out to attend ceremonies in the Boise area or join their families on the grounds for a picnic or long visits. Leslie and I came here on Memorial Day 2004 to have a picnic with her father Virgil, her brother Loyd, and his wife Sherry. The VA grounds were festooned with American flags everywhere, and veterans had attended a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park down the road for Idaho's veterans.You can visit the veterans in the nursing home or veterans home from 11am to 9pm daily, and pets are allowed inside as long as they are on a leash and well behaved. I have learned a lot about Virgil's experiences in the Korean War during a couple of visits, and many of the veterans love to talk about their experiences and enjoy visitors.
Attraction | "A Brief History of Fort Boise and the Idaho Veterans Home and Hospital"
Idaho and its capital Boise are a relatively young state and city that dates from the mid-19th Century. Boise was originally a garrison town that was established to house the US military who were stationed there to protect settlers from the east from Native American attacks.
But Fort Boise's present home was established after the original Fort Boise was built on the Snake River near present-day Parma, Idaho, near the Oregon border. The first Fort Boise was built by a British firm in 1834 to compete with nearby Fort Hall. The original Fort Boise served as a supply point on the Oregon Trail for the military and pioneers who travelled along it to California. The first Fort Boise existed only for 20 years due to floods and repeated Native American attacks, and the Snake River area of Southern Idaho didn't have the protection of a fort until 1863 when the military built a new Fort Boise in its present place off Fort Street.
In the late 19th Century, veterans of the US military were allowed to live in the "Old Soldiers Home" that was located in a another part of Boise. In 1955, veteran affairs were transferred to the Idaho Veteran Affairs Commission, and a new soldiers home was built and dedicated in 1966 at the Fort Boise location. In 1974, veteran affairs were transferred to the Health and Welfare Commission's jurisdiction, and by 2000, the Idaho Division of Veteran Services became an independent agency. The present day Veterans home is like an assisted living facility where soldiers live and have many comforts of home. They also have access to medical facilities on the grounds to receive treatment, are fed three meals a day, and can participate in many activities.Idaho veterans didn't have a nursing home for a long time. In 1978, construction began on a nursing home facility with government funds. On November 11, 1980, the home was dedicated. It houses about 100 veterans and has a small facility for female veterans who need more extensive care and services.
Idaho veterans didn't have a final resting place until 2004, when a cemetery in the Boise Foothills was dedicated on July 31, and its first interment occurred on November 16.
Along with on-site medical facilities, the Idaho veterans home has a huge park with picnic baskets and pathways for them to enjoy sunny days and picnics with loved ones. Private donations helped establish many of the facilities on the grounds through the years, and our veterans have a place to live and get the help they so greatly need.
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From its establishment in Boise, Idaho in 1863 until the late 19th century, Fort Boise had many uses for soldiers and civilians who were passing through the Idaho Territory or settled down in the area. Fort Boise was a fort built to protect pioneers and soldiers from Native American Attacks, and after the fort became obsolete in that category, its buildings were put to use for treating 20th and 21st century Veterans, as part of the Veterans Administration Hospital and Home.
Fort Boise is split into two levels, an upper level and a lower level. Here are some of the buildings of importance on each level.
1. Officers Quarters.
2. The Administration Building.
3. The Quartermaster's Building
Other buildings that are part of the original layout of Fort Boise, are part of the Veterans Administration and house laundry, optician, and other facilities for our veterans and can be viewed as you walk or drive through Fort Boise.
Most of the veterans who live at the Veterans Home or Nursing Home located at Fort Boise are veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Each veteran has his or her own fascinating stories of their experiences in battle or boot camp. Virgil Van Zante, my friend Leslie's father, is one of those veterans with a story or two to tell you.
Virgil grew up in Iowa along with nine brothers and sisters. A couple of his brothers served valiantly in combat during World War II, and Virgil and another brother joined them in the military when the Korean Conflict broke out in July, 1950. Virgil was sent to Korea to fight the Communist North Korean and their Chinese allies who invaded free South Korea, who was an ally of the USA. I don't have a lot of details of Virgil's Korean experiences, but one story that is mentioned a lot at Van Zante family gatherings is how US troops got as far as the North Korean/Manchurian border in the winter of 1950-1951.Winters in this area of the world can be brutal, and this winter was no exception. Combat was bloody, and soldiers were either killed in action or died from exposure or frostbite. Virgil's unit got lost from the main unit and had to endure many cold days of combat and avoiding capture by the Chinese or North Korean army. For his wounds received in action, and his participation in Korea, Virgil received the Purple Heart along with several other medals of valor. Leslie bought a shadow box to keep Virgil's medals safe, and he has them in his room at the VA in Boise where he has been a resident since 2000. Hampered by diabetes and wheelchair bound, Virgil enjoys days of leisure, his hat collection, and visits from his children and grandchildren who love hearing his stories about his days in the Korean War.When I lived in Rhode Island, I worked at McDonald's and had many elderly customers, many of them World War II veterans. One of them was Chuck Whittaker, who has since passed away. Chuck was a young soldier who was sent to North Africa after basic training in the States. Chuck and his unit were thrown into battle immediately at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, which was one of the most bloodiest and costly battles for the US Army during World War II. The US Army was almost wiped out completely by German troops and several were taken prisoner, including Chuck Whittaker. As the prison ship was taking Chuck to a POW camp in Germany via the Mediterranean Sea, it was bombed by Allied planes. Many of the POWs had to jump ship, and were rescued by Allied ships. After recovery from injuries, soldiers who escaped captivity were sent to other units or the Pacific Theater. Chuck was sent to Italy, which had been invaded by the Allies in July of 1943. In January 1944, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II took place at Anzio, a beachfront protected viciously by the Germans. Chuck was wounded in the chest at Anzio and lost a lung which bought him a ticket home from the war. Another veteran of World War II was my uncle, Al Salisbury. Lying about his age, Al joined the army in 1942 and saw combat in the European Theater. On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded the beachheads in Normandy in the D-Day invasions. Al was in the second wave of soldiers coming ashore and almost lost his life when German barbed wire almost decapitated him as he was running ashore. Al survived to participate in the Battle of the Bulge and spent his 19th birthday (December 17, 1944) in a foxhole as the Germans launched their counterattack against the US Army. By March 1945, Allied Soldiers surrounded Germany from all sides. Al's unit crossed the Rhine River under the command of General Courtney Hodges, who was under Patton's command. Hodge's army went into eastern Germany and was part of conquering cities and towns in the area. The horrors of war and the Nazis came clear in April 1945, when Al's unit came upon a newly liberated concentration camp near Nordhausen. It was the Dora Mittlebau concentration camp that was the sight of the construction of the V-1 and V-2 bombs. Many concentration camp prisoners died here building bombs for the Nazis in the camp's caves. This experience Al and many veterans have never forgotten. Al never talked about his war experiences, and it took the 1998 release of Steven Spielberg's film Saving Private Ryan to get him to finally open up about what he did during World War II.It is sad that people don't want to take the time to listen to a veteran's stories of war and death, and I believe that people need to take the time to talk with them. Thousands of World War II and Korean War veterans are dying daily, and it will be a matter of time before all of them are gone, and you will miss out on their lives and stories. So, if you live near a VA or know a veteran, take the time out to talk with them about the war, if they are willing to talk about it.
My dogs Loki and Katie are our loyal travel companions whenever we can take them somewhere that allows dogs. Most of our trips wind up in a park or at some body of water for a day of fun, sun, and exercise.
We had an unexpected almost 60-degree day at the end of February, and I said to Mom that it would be a great day to take Loki and Katie to Fort Boise for a change of scenery. So, we put Loki and Katie's leashes on and were off in Mom's Subaru Legacy, which is big enough to fit us two humans and two huge dogs in comfortably. Everyone gets their own seat. I drove, Mom was in the passenger's seat, Loki was in the back seat, and Katie was in the "back back," the Fernstrom sisters' childhood term for the hatch.Katie is a very quiet passenger who is happy looking out the window with her tongue hanging out of her mouth. Loki, on the other hand, is very restless, and spent most of the short ride from Meridian hanging over between the front seats crying or barking at trucks that went by. Trying to reassure Old Loki that not all trips wind up with his getting a shot in his rump went over like a lead balloon, and Mom and I were entertained by a whimpering and howling German Shepherd for most of the way. Is that dogese for, "Are we there, yet?!"Finally, we arrived at Fort Boise, and before I could get out of the driver's seat to get Loki and Katie in the back, they had made the great escape out of the front passenger's seat and were heading towards the stairs that led to the old officers quarters. Finally, Mom and I caught up with our wayward pooches, and they led the way around Fort Boise investigating every building (and trees, too) with a puppy's curiosity.Eventually, Mom, Loki, Katie, and I made it to the lower level of the fort and park, and Loki and Katie ran in the park happy as clams. Katie rolled over in the grass and then sat at the edge of the pathway to people-watch. Usually Katie is shy and won't go to people, but two ladies walked by, and Katie wagged her tail at them. "What a tramp!" I said to Mom. After catching our breath in the park's gazebo, Loki and Katie were rearing to go, and we followed our running dogs around the corner to another part of the park near the eye clinic (old quartermaster's building) and to our car near the veterans home. Loki and Katie didn't want to go home just yet and were a pain in the neck to put in the car. Finally Loki got in the car, but Katie, who was in a very sociable mood that day, ran up to a VA employee leaving work for the day and greeted her. Luckily, this guy liked dogs and bent down to pet Katie. He asked me if she was part Keeshond, and I told him we didn't know what she was, part Golden Retriever, part collie, part wolf, an Ewok! It is true that dogs are guy magnets! I finally got Katie to the car, where Mom had the back door open for her, but Katie decided she wanted to sit in the front seat, and Mom got stuck in the backseat with Loki. "Another episode of 'Driving Miss Katie'" I quipped to Mom! Katie definitely does not obey the rule about kids and dogs in the backseat!Loki and Katie were nice and tired for the trip home. Loki still whined a little bit in the back seat, but at least he realized he wasn't going to the veterinarian's for a shot! A dog's life!