BELLA VISTA, Ark. (KNWA) – If you make a stop in Bella Vista during the week, chances are you’re going to see this group of veterans sitting on this bench, drinking some coffee and chatting it up.
In 1946, Navy Veteran Orville Lester Jones worked as a refueler on a CV 45 – an 880 ft. long ship that carried 100 planes on the flight deck. “My recruiting officer of my hometown Harrison, Arkansas said I’m going to save your life and sign you up for two years and that’s what I served,” Jones said.
Now Jones is joined by three other veterans on his visits to a local store – Wilson Scott Jr., Robert Clendannon and Lawrence Bruns. “People come in and because we are veterans they’ll stop and visit,” Bruns said.
Robert Clendannon is one of the original members of the group. He served in the Navy during World War II and also spent 2 years with the Marines in the South Pacific, where he participated in two landings – one in Guam and one in Okinawa. “I was discharged from the service as a pharmacist mate first class,” Clendannon said. “It was a kind of a launching to the future for me, for my education and so forth.”
Next to join the group was Wilson Scott Jr. who moved to Bella Vista 8 years ago from California – a move he says was the best decision he’s ever made. “When I come by, I always holler at them, shake their hand, thank them for their service,” Scott said. Scott served in the U.S. Air Force for a little over 30 years. He was as an Administrative Specialist in Vietnam and spent some time stationed in Norway and Germany. “I worked with the Commander the First Sergeant and the Generals,” Scott said.
And the most recent addition is Lawrence Bruns. Bruns, also know as Mr. B, taught special education for 39 years. Before that, Bruns was a training officer in Kansas from 1957 to 1961 and retired as First Lieutenant. He jokingly says his decision to retire boiled down to choosing between his wife or the military. “I chose her which turned out to be very fortunate because close to 80 percent of my grade did not live through Vietnam,” Bruns said.
Now the veterans have found another place to call home, reflecting on their time served and just taking a moment to watch the people of Bella Vista go by.