From veterans to children, Pat Bliss can’t help but give and give to those around her.
It’s in her nature. It’s in her blood.
In recognition of her selfless efforts and tireless commitment to others, Oxford American Legion Auxiliary Unit 108 presented the 75-year-old with The Americanism Award on Sunday afternoon at Post 108 on E. Drahner Rd.
“This is the highest honor that a unit may give to a unit member,” said Ellen Jackson, past president of the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Michigan, who presented Bliss with both a plaque and a medal to pin on her lapel.
“I was just totally shocked. I had no idea that she was doing this. Absolutely no idea at all,” said Bliss, who lives in Brandon Township near the Oxford border. “(Jackson) told me she had this award to present, but I had no idea it was (for) me.”
Bliss, a 1960 Oxford High School graduate, has served as president of Auxiliary Unit 108 since 2003. She joined in 2000.
During the presentation, Jackson recounted the myriad of things Bliss has done to earn this award.
When it comes to children, “Pat makes sure that the low-income families from (the) Oxford Early Learning Center are taken care of at Christmas,” she said.
Bliss collects the wish lists, then ensures all the shopping, wrapping and delivery gets done, so no child feels forgotten.
She also organizes Easter, Halloween and Christmas parties for kids at Post 108 and does all the legwork behind the scholarship program that benefits graduating high school students.
When it comes to those who have served, or are currently serving, their country in the Armed Forces, Jackson said Bliss always does her very best to ensure that everyone is “treated with respect and dignity.”
“Pat was told of a veteran that was living without water because of his fixed income,” she said. “(He) did not have the funds to get his well repaired. Pat, with the help of local companies, got the well up and running.”
Bliss organized a special luncheon for Vietnam veterans to “say the words some had never (heard) – welcome home.”
When Legion and Auxiliary members are sick, she visits them at their homes and in the hospital. She also attends and participates in funeral services for members.
Bliss regularly organizes packing parties to create care packages for troops serving overseas, so they know there are people back home who support their efforts and are “praying for their safe return,” Jackson said.
She’s even taken time to visit shelters “to distribute food and warm clothing” to homeless veterans.
Upon receiving the award, Bliss was visibly moved.
But true to her character, she remained humble. She didn’t give a long-winded speech or pat herself on the back.
With tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat, Bliss simply said, “I tell my members every month, without them, I’m nothing. God bless all of you.”
Bliss is well known to many folks in the Oxford community because she spent 45 years driving a bus for the school district. She worked from February 1968 until her retirement in June 2005, then returned in September of that year to work as a substitute driver through June 2013.
In 2005, she was named School Bus Driver of the Year by the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation.
Bliss became an Auxiliary member because her late husband Roy Bliss, who served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War, was a member of the Legion and she was constantly visiting Post 108 with him.
“I figured I’m here every night, so I might as well join,” she said.
She’s never regretted a moment of it.
“I enjoy it,” Bliss said. “I enjoy working with the people. I enjoy doing things for veterans. Any time I can do something for a veteran, that’s my favorite part. It’s very important to support the veterans.”
Bliss believes she’s extremely fortunate because the five organizations based at Post 108 – the Legion, Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion, AMVETS and Legion Riders – are one big family.
“We all work together,” said. “It’s not about what I can do or what they can do, it’s about what we can do as a group . . . To me, it’s not about glory for us. It’s about wanting to give (back).”