COOS BAY — The Coos Bay Eagles Lodge held its annual Veterans Day dinner Saturday, providing a free meal to those wore the uniform to protect our country and its ideals.

No one is quite sure exactly how long the Coos Bay Eagles Lodge, an organization of over 100 years in Coos Bay, has been holding its free Veterans Day dinner. But some, like this year’s event coordinator Larry Bingham, have been told it’s the oldest Veterans Day dinner in the state of Oregon.

“This is the oldest one in the state. We don’t know of any other Veterans day dinner that’s been going on longer,” Bingham said.

Rough estimates from folks who have worked the event for several say it’s been going on for well over 30 years.

This year’s dinner saw over 250 hungry Veterans receive a chicken dinner with all the fixings.

Paul Trueax was said to be the highest ranking veteran in attendance the Sergeant Major spent 26 years in the U.S Army. He no longer helps setup the Veterans Day dinner, but for 15 years he was very active in pulling the event together.

“I’ll tell you what I went years and Veterans Day meant a day off of school or a day off of work. It’s only been the last 20 years or so that I really started realize it means something. We did a job our country asked us to do. I think it’s something really important,” Trueax said.

While the lodge of the eagles does much of the preparation for the dinner, many of the veteran groups offer their support.

“The American legion has brought the flags in the past, and done the music. All the veterans groups give money to this dinner to help the Eagles pay for it. American legion, Disabled American Veterans, and the AMVETS, have been supporting this event for as long as I know. And I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” Bingham said.

The serving of the meal is done by local youth charity organizations. DeMolay, the Mason’s youth leadership organization has been helping with the dinner for the past 10 years. For the first time, the young ladies from the Miss Coos County pageant served meals at the diner.

“The kids are outstanding. Any time we get the youth involved in something like this it’s very important to us,” Bingham said.

One man who attended the dinner, Richard Gutierrez, spent four years in Vietnam. He doesn’t like to talk about his service, saying he’d rather forget about it, but said he really enjoys coming to Veterans celebrations to show his patriotism.   

An Iraq and Afghanistan veteran named Eric Shetka said, “I tend to just sit at home by myself all the time, so I thought it might be good to get out. Normally I don’t like coming out to these kinds of things but being here with other veterans is good. It makes it easier for me. ”