Why I serve

If you are reading this, I must say thank you to our American Legion. Somehow, they must see some modicum of value in the words that follow.

My legion post has been around for a very long time, and like so many, it has gone through its ups and downs. In many ways, it is not much different from any organization. It has those few people who volunteer for everything, sometimes without being asked. There are those who cannot physically give to the post, but I am sure that in the past they did. There is a group who used to give all they could and for one reason or another got tired. Not meaning to cast any pall on anyone, there are those who are members and do not, for one reason or another, give. This does not mean they are any less than others. They are all valuable people.

About my post. If you ask most people in Elwood, they will say that the American Legion Post is a bar. In many places, including Elwood, that has a bad connotation. I see my post as a place where veterans and their families can come together to take care of the needs of veterans and our community. While it is true that we do sell alcohol, what many do not know is that we do a lot more. Oh, we sell food, too.

I volunteer at my post and fill the positions of finance officer, service officer and public service officer. Yes, they demand time, but if I am watching television, that takes time as well. If you ask why I volunteer, it is simple. I will take you outside the building, randomly select one of the bricks that makes up the outer wall and tell you that I am no more important than that brick, but I am part of many bricks that make us who we are. I consider it an honor to serve the veterans and their families who come through our doors.

Each veteran is a story in history, and together they add their colors to the history of a great nation. Each story is unique. Two veterans can serve side by side, but their stories will be different because of what they saw and interpreted.

There is Greg Poe, our commander. Greg is a crusty old Marine who served in Vietnam. I have learned that his tour was nothing fun or exciting, but even today, you can tell from a long distance that he is still a Marine. If you are ever in doubt, see him on the street and yell out “Hey Marine,” and I can pretty much guarantee that he will stop and look. As a post commander, I feel we could not ask for a better person. While it is true that the American Legion has written much about how a post commander should fulfill his/her duties, Greg takes it to a personal level and cares deeply about every single person. This is something that you cannot put in a book and he has mastered it.

Our adjutant, Gene Herkless is a Korean War veteran. After all of these years, you can see the pride he has in his service. While others today still debate the fact of Korea being a war, Gene knows it was. I would never doubt him, and with people being killed by an enemy force, that is pretty much the definition of a war. Gene will tell you in a heartbeat that he is not tech savvy, and like many he knows a few things about texting and maybe some Facebook or email, but beyond that he shows that he is unsure. There is nothing wrong with that. Along with his duties as adjutant, he handles post membership. For those who do that job, you know how much work that is. He reads all of the guidance that is put out by the American Legion, but as we discussed, when you hear anyone say, “just do it this way,” the person really has not been to your post or tried all of that in your community. Gene works with people and not numbers.

Every day at about 3:30 p.m. Jim Sites comes in. He always has a single diet root beer. I find myself always amazed by the things he has told me about being in Vietnam. Like the others, I am so honored to know him. I get the impression that Jim has been a member a long time and has weathered both the good and bad times.

Our members are from all the wars going back to World War II. Yes, we have a few of those great people around, and if any one wishes to know, I consider them a national treasure. There is Carl Scott. If you ask me, he is a great Marine and loves talking about meeting Chesty Puller. Only a Marine would know that name and would be envious of Carl for having the honor of meeting General Puller.

If you come in our doors, and look at the wall to the south, you will see a group of pictures going back to 1919 when our post was founded. Somewhere along the line we stopped putting up the pictures of our post commanders, but with luck we can fix that soon.

I know that I am writing this about my American Legion Post, but you can be rest assured that I feel the same way about the VFW post that has honored me by accepting me as a member. VFW Post 5782 is just as important to me as Louis Monroe Memorial Post 53. If either of them needs my help, all they need do is ask and I will do my best to serve those who gave me the right and ability to serve our nation.

So, why do I serve? It is simple. It is my honor to serve; to never judge, and never let the needs of a veteran or his/her family members go unattended.

« Previous story
Next story »