SHEDD — Wednesday morning was cold and wet, but less-than-ideal weather didn’t bother six residents of Lebanon's Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home, nor the several Linn County Sheriff’s Office staffers at the Albany Rifle & Pistol Club.
The veterans were having too much fun shooting pistols and rifles — and even a .45-caliber Thompson machine gun — at steel silhouettes and bright orange clay targets to let the weather spoil their outing. Although most hadn’t picked up a firearms in years, their military training kicked in quickly, and after a few dry practice fires and a couple of live rounds, they were hammering the targets with marksman-level consistency.
That was especially true for 77-year-old Andrew Angellford, who was a firearms instructor for the Army and Navy from 1960 to 1994.
“This is a lot of fun,” he said after obliterating several clay targets and putting down four silhouettes in rapid order. “I have always loved to shoot. Knowing how to shoot is the cheapest life insurance you can get.”
Angellford said he served in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Alaska during his long military career. The Sheridan native has also lived in Sweet Home and Lebanon before moving into the veterans home four months ago.
He was so spot on that sheriff’s office Rangemaster Brad Kelley set up balloons several yards from the other targets. Angellford took steady aim and “boom, boom”: the orange and purple balloons exploded.
“I enjoy meeting our veterans,” Kelley said. “They are amazing people with amazing stories. I love to hear their stories and to see the smiles on their faces.”
Joining Angellford were D.J. Obad, 71; Clay Barnts, 77; Frank Coleman, 91; Mark Christensen, 94; and Darwin Hanning, 73.
“Our veterans really like this,” veterans home recreation assistant Mellisa Picard said. "It’s wonderful to bring them out here. They were up early and ready to go this morning.”
Picard was assisted by CNA Kanderienia Mulryan.
Air Force veteran Darwin Hanning, 74, practiced finding his target with the sights of an unloaded 9-millimeter pistol. When Deputy L.J. King helped him load its ammo clip, Hanning started sending empty cartridges flying and the smell of spent gunpowder wafted in the air.
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“That was a little high,” King teased Hanning. “What are you aiming at?”
Despite that, Hanning, who grew up in Fremont, California, said it was easy to see how happy he was "by the grin on my face."
“I liked to go target shooting when I was young,” Hanning said. “My son, Mike, works for the sheriff’s office in Las Vegas and he got a deer the first time I took him hunting. Now, he’s taking his son, Colton.”
Two of the attending veterans served during World War II: Mark Christensen, 94, flew in B-17s; and Frank Coleman, 91, was a seaman on the USS Iowa during the conflict's waning days.
Linn County Sheriff Jim Yon said this is the program's fourth year.
“Former Sheriff Bruce Riley started this and we try to have two sessions twice a year,” he said. “We usually have five to 10 veterans at a time and we roll with the weather.”
Yon said the event gives participants something to look forward to and is a popular talking point at the veterans home.
“There is a link between military veterans and law enforcement folks,” he said. “Many law enforcement people have military backgrounds. There’s a strong camaraderie.”
In addition to shooting as many targets as they wanted, the veterans also enjoyed pizza and cookies for lunch.
The 154-bed Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home opened in September 2014 after nearly two years of construction. The facility borders the Samaritan Health Sciences Campus.
It is named after Corvallis resident Edward C. Allworth, a World War I hero, who after the war had a long and distinguished career at the Oregon State University Memorial Union.