Veterans in the Parkland were honored yesterday for their past service, but most have not stopped their efforts to help their countrymen.
Those efforts include helping fellow veterans as well as the community through several veterans organizations with chapters in St. Francois County. National organizations with chapters here are the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the AmVets.
Honorably discharged veterans may be eligible for one or all of the four organizations.
Each has different requirements for membership, but all share at least one common goal – to support comrades who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Although they are most often seen on Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day and other holidays, the veterans work throughout the year to promote patriotism, secure veterans’ benefits and help raise money for needs of the community or other veterans.
Their organizations provide camaraderie for men and women with similar experiences and offer opportunities to lobby for legislation and policies that protect veterans’ benefits.
As the organizations lose members from World War II, veterans of Vietnam step into leadership positions. Remembering the way they were treated after returning from war, the Vietnam vets are reaching out in support to veterans of Iraq and are welcoming the new veterans into the ranks.
The veterans keep alive traditions from earlier decades. Can’t remember the rules for displaying a flag? Call a veteran. Not sure about Memorial Day protocol? Call a veteran. Want someone to share patriotic history with your students? That’s right, the answers are just a phone call away when you dial one of the veterans’ organizations.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is considered the oldest and second largest veterans’ group in the country. There are five VFW Posts in St. Francois County: Farmington, Bismarck, Desloge, Bonne Terre and Leadington.
The VFW was created in 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection founded local organizations to secure their rights and benefits. Many of the soldiers had returned home sick or wounded, but they had no veteran’s pension or medical to help them get back on their feet. They were left to care for themselves, according to Tony Carroll, USN (Ret.), public relations officer for the VFW’s Post 5896 and VFW District 8 in Missouri.
The organization is open to men and women who served on hostile ground or in hostile waters during a war. That means someone who went to Vietnam during the Vietnam War is eligible for VFW membership, but someone who was stationed in Germany during that war would not be able to join.
The VFW members have several main objectives, including fraternal opportunities and support for veterans, patriotism, sharing the nation’s history, educating others about the flag and related issues, and helping the community.
For example, Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741 and its Ladies Auxiliary work with Central and West County school districts on educational projects and hand out about $1,500 in patriotic items and literature. They also visit veterans at three nursing homes and donate clothing, Christmas fruit baskets and other items for the veterans who live there; hold Bingo for residents of St. Joe Manor in Bonne Terre; sponsor student essay contests; and donate money for flags to be placed along Main Street in Park Hills.
Other VFW Posts in the county provide similar services and programs. Most have a Ladies Auxiliary for wives, mothers, sisters and other female relatives of veterans. Those organizations aid veterans in projects and fund-raising.
Across the nation, the VFW offers programs such as Military Assistance (MAP), veterans’ services, youth scholarships and the Buddy Poppy program that helps disabled veterans. The national Web site is http://www.vfw.org .
A big focus of the Norman L. Rigdon VFW Post 5896 is work on legislative issues, Carroll said.
&#8220Legislatively, we’re helping to preserve the rights of veterans and keep what we’ve been promised,” he said. &#8220We are veterans, helping veterans.
The VFW Posts in St. Francois County:
€ Norman L. Rigdon VFW Post 5896 is the largest Post of the five. The Post is located at 814 E. Karsch Boulevard in Farmington and is led by Commander Jerry Rawlins. Meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of every month at the Post. Anyone who has served the United States in hostile waters or on hostile soil during a war may join. Traditionally a male organization, the Post now has women veterans among its members. This Post also has a men’s auxiliary as well as a ladies auxiliary for spouses and other family members of veterans. To join, stop in at the Post or ask a member for an application.
Among its many programs, the Post helps families of deployed men and women, including those in the Reserves. At every meeting, they include an empty table set aside as a reminder of those who are prisoners of war or missing in action.
€ Desloge Post 2426 is the oldest Post in the county, and is preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year. Commander is Norman Tibbetts. The Post is located at 399 W. Oak Street in Desloge and members meet at 7 p.m. every other Monday. To join, stop in at the Post and pick up an application.
The Post’s annual activities include honoring local police and other area agencies, bringing veterans from nursing homes to the Post for barbecues, conducting blood drives and sponsoring clothing drives to benefit homeless veterans. Wherever the community has a need, the VFW is there to help meet it, said Quartermaster and past State Commander Jerry Turk.
€ Bismarck VFW Post 6947 was organized in 1946 and is located at 1008 Veterans Drive in Bismarck. Commander is Jimmy Loyd. The Post meets at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Any veteran who served in a war may apply by stopping by the Post or attending a meeting. In addition to completing the application, prospective members have to show discharge papers or qualifying medals that verify service in hostile areas. That application is reviewed by a team before members vote whether to admit the applicant, said Joe Snyder, the Post’s recruiting officer.
In addition to typical VFW projects such as Buddy Poppy, the Post offers the &#8220Voice of Democracy” and &#8220Patriot’s Pen” essay contests for students; places more than 500 flags on graves in seven cemeteries each Memorial Day holiday; helps fund the Bismarck Senior Citizens’ Center Thanksgiving meal; and donates to the &#8220Friend in Need” program for senior citizens and needy residents to help pay heating or other bills.
00020000053E00001AAC 538,€ Bonne Terre Post 6883 was established in 1962 and is located at 1112 Roe Street, Bonne Terre. Commander is John McClure. Meetings are at 7:30 p.m. the first and third Thursday of each month. Prospective members may stop by and pick up an application.
Among its activities, the Post delivers food baskets to senior citizens and needy families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. &#8220We’re here to do whatever we can for the community,” McClure said.
€ Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741 is located at 600 Woodlawn Drive, Leadington. The Post was organized in the mid 1980s and is commanded by Robert Donaldson. Meetings are held at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month. To join, stop in at a meeting or call Joe Briley at 431-6141 or Bob Donaldson at 518-1422.
Each year, the Post sponsors the POW-MIA dinner. It is a non-alcoholic Post, so it relies on Bingo two nights a week instead of a bar to raise funds to help veterans and the community, Quartermaster Joe Briley said.
Congress chartered the American Legion in 1919 as a &#8220patriotic, mutual-help, war-time veterans organization.” It is the largest veterans’ organization in the country, with nearly 3 million members and 15,000 American Legion Posts around the world, according to its national Web site, ( http://www.legion.org ).
The American Legion is open to anyone who served in the Armed Forces, even if the country was not engaged in war at the time.
Posts are organized into 55 departments found in each of the states and in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Philippines. The organizations assist military families, provide information about veterans’ benefits and educate citizens about the United States flag.
The American Legion offers several programs for youth, including Boys State (a program that offers hands-on government experience for high school leaders), Boys Nation (two boys attend from each Boys State program), youth baseball leagues, Boy Scout clubs and the annual American Legion’s National High School Oratorical Contest. That contest helps high school youth develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the U.S. Constitution and fosters the development of leadership qualities, the ability to think and speak clearly and intelligently, and the preparation for acceptance of the duties and responsibilities, the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
&#8220The American Legion is for God and country, and we’re still serving,” said Ken Kelly, commander of the Farmington Legion Post.
There are at least two American Legion Posts in St. Francois County. A third one, American Legion Post 83 of Bonne Terre, is listed on the Internet. However, no one answered the phone at the listed number. Veterans in most other area organizations had not heard of the Post or said they did not know how to contact the Post or its commander.€ Farmington Post 416 is located at 1604 W. Columbia in Farmington. Commander Kelly leads meetings at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month. The third Monday meeting includes dinner, which starts at 6 p.m. To join, stop in to a meeting or call Kelly at 760-0528.
The American Legion recently built a new facility next door to the Post for the Veterans Administration community clinic and is still accepting donations to pay for that project. They sponsor Boy Scout Troop 999 and provided flags for the Troop to place in front of downtown businesses. The Post also provided flags to line the streets during the Aug. 31 funeral of Army Staff Sergeant Michael Deason, who was killed in Iraq.
€ American Legion Post 39 is located at 5073 Flat River Road in Leadington. Commander is Paul Underwood. The Post meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month and holds Bingo on Saturdays. Veterans who want to join may stop in during a meeting. The Post also has a Ladies Auxiliary.
000200000441000029D3 43B,Among its projects to help veterans and the community, the Post raises money to send high school students to Boys State and Girls State each year, member William H. Hoppe said.
****************Disabled American Veterans (DAV)***************
The DAV began in 1920 in response to World War I veterans who had become disabled through their service to the United States. The organization now has more than 1.2 million members, making it the third largest veterans organization in the country, according to its national Web site ( http://www.dav.org ).
The organization’s goal is to help disabled veterans build better lives for themselves and their families. DAV works with federal, state and local officials and lawmakers on behalf of disabled veterans and their families, widowed spouses and orphans. Its National Service Program includes 260 National Service Officers (NSOs) and 26 Transition Service Officers (TSOs) who directly represent veterans with claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. Representation is free to veterans.
The DAV also sponsors programs to transport disabled veterans to and from Veterans Administration (VA) facilities for medical treatment and recruits volunteers for VA hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Funding for DAV services comes from membership dues and donations.
There is one DAV chapter in St. Francois County:
€ Farmington DAV Chapter 12 formed in 1975. The Chapter has its headquarters in the L.I.F.E. Center for Independent Living building, 1109 Ste. Genevieve Ave., Farmington. Commander is Bob Ridings and its Web site is http://www.davmissouri12.com . Meetings take place at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month for any veteran who is disabled as a result of his or her service. The Chapter represents disabled veterans in St. Francois, Washington, Iron, Madison and Ste. Genevieve counties. Chaplain Don Nelson said the group helps veterans affiliated with L.I.F.E. Center and is trying to secure a DAV to take veterans to the VA medical clinic in Poplar Bluff.
Among its activities are the &#8220Forget Me Not” blue poppies and &#8220Chunks of Gold” (decorated $10 rolls of quarters) for veterans in nursing homes.
*************American Veterans (AMVETS)*************
Three years after the American Veterans of World War II was founded on Dec. 10, 1944, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 216, which made AMVETS the first World War II organization to be chartered by Congress, according to the national Web site ( http://www.amvets.org ).
Anyone who has served in the Armed Forces from World War II to the present, including the National Guards and Reserves, are eligible for membership in AMVETS. The organization works with homeless veterans, addresses veterans’ benefits and helps hospitalized veterans. AmVets awards $40,000 in scholarships for high school seniors each year and supports organizations such as Special Olympics, ROTC and Scouts.
Each year, the national organization awards the Silver Helmet Americanism Award &#8220… to recognize excellence and achievement in Americanism, defense, rehabilitation, congressional service and other fields.”
There is one AMVETS Post in the county:
€ AMVETS Post 113 was founded in 1985 by veterans Bill Koehn, Bill Black, Ben Beard and Roy Clark Jr., according to current Commander Clifford Simpkins. The Post, which includes an Auxiliary and a Sons of AmVets group meets the second Wednesday of each month. The Auxiliary meets at 5:30 p.m., the Sons of AmVets meet at 6:30 p.m. and AmVets meet at 7 p.m. in the Post, 3756 Pimville Road in Park Hills. To join, stop in at the Post.
Among its activities for the public are weekly Wednesday Bingo games, monthly Fish Fry meals, monthly steak suppers and breakfast the first Sunday of each month. New is a monthly chicken dinner. Other fund-raisers include a weekly shooting match on the Post’s 10 acres of land.