When Duty Calls

Kentuckiana veterans say
serving country was a badge of honor

Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer

(November 2001) Warsaw, Ky – Veteran’s Day takes place on Nov. 11. But for many service men and women, being a veteran is a daily activity. Even though their time in the service is behind them, the idea of service is still a important aspect of their lives. Kentuckiana is filled with many veterans organizations that offer assistance, not only to each other but the public at large.

Harold Rowlett

Harold Rowlett

“We all strive for the same basic goals, but we each operate a little differently,” said David Stafford, a Recognized Infantryman of the U.S. Army in Desert Storm. Stafford is now commander at Post 41 of the American Legion, located in Carrollton, Ky. The Post has 336 members who have served in a branch of the U.S. military during a time of war. To qualify for Legion membership, a veteran did not have to serve in combat.
In addition to Post 41’s 336 men are 150 members of the Ladies Auxiliary, which consists of not only female veterans but widows, spouses, daughters and mothers of male veterans. The branch also has 110 sons, stepsons and grandsons of veterans in the Sons of the American Legion.
Throughout the year, Post 41 provides many services to veterans, regardless of whether they are members. It provides financial assistance to veterans and their families in times of need. It also transports disabled veterans to their necessary hospital appointments and assists them with insurance claims.
But veterans services go beyond this to help anyone in need. As the holiday season approaches, the Post is gearing up food supplies to feed the hungry for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Making this task more challenging is the fact that they will not only be servicing persons in Carroll County but Carroll, Henry, Gallatin and Trimble counties as well. The Post has also provided disaster relief in the past, like it did during the 1993 flood.
“The Legion does a lot for anyone who needs help,” said Jack Bates, 76, a World War II, Korea and Vietnam Navy veteran who has been a member for 25 years. “If someone needs help and we know it, then we get out and help.”
Bates cited a recent example as he sat in the Legion hall of Post 41. Just that past Saturday, a dance had been held to raise money for a veteran whose son had been killed and had no life insurance.
“It’s like a family type thing that brings people together,” said Doug Burkett, 59, a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army’s 4th Armor Battalion. “You get to know a lot of people, and it’s a place where you can bring your wife and not worry about fighting and cursing.”
“A lot of people think it’s just a bar,” said Stafford. But many veterans agree with Stafford in that there is much more to the Legion, and that the bar attribute is a misleading representation of what really is involved.
“The bar is basically a member benefit and a way to pay the electric bill,” he added. Post 41’s bar is open to its members only and the guests who accompany them. Some posts of the American Legion don’t even have a bar.
Post 39 in La Grange, Ky., is set up quite differently than its neighbor to the east. The Post’s headquarters is located on the Oldham County 4-H Fairgrounds and is used only for Post meetings, church groups and an occasional pancake breakfast. The La Grange Post still has the strong service aspect present that Post 41 has. Annual activities include putting flags by veterans gravesides, assisting with VA claims, sponsoring a picnic on Independence Day and services on Memorial Day.
The La Grange Post currently has 60 members but does not have a Ladies Auxiliary or Sons of the American Legion, although Post members say they hope to one day reach that point, according to finance officer Don Richey. Post Cmdr. Bernie O’Bryan, a 75-year-old Marine veteran of World War II, said the camaraderie is a strong aspect of what keeps the organization active.
“These people speak the same language I do,” he said. “We’ve all been in different places, but the environments we’ve been in were similar. We all love God, the country and the flag.”
Many other American Legion posts exist across the region, but there are other veterans organizations as well. Veterans of Foreign Wars has Post 1969 in Madison, Ind., which boasts 400 members and 240 in its Ladies Auxiliary. The VFW differs from the American Legion in that its requirements for membership are that a veteran had to have served in combat during a past war. The Madison branch, located at 3100 Michigan Rd., consists not only of a large hall and additional meeting rooms but a restaurant open to the public.
Even though its name, setup and eligibility requirements differ, the VFW’s annual services are similar to those of the American Legion.
Post Cmdr. Roger Chandler reported that this past year, the post has placed 280 American flags alongside Veterans graves. During the aftermath of the recent terrorist crises in New York and Washington, D.C., the VFW helped place flags around the community. VFW members also care for disabled veterans, families of living or deceased veterans and anyone else who has a need that they are able to meet.
In addition, the VFW plays host to events for families, such as Halloween and Christmas parties and summer picnics.
“We serve a lot of purposes,” said Chandler. “It’s a lot more than people think. For me, it’s like a second home.”
“Most people think this is for old people, and it’s not for old people,” said member George Evans, a Korean War Veteran of the 4th Army Division. “We have a lot of young guys, too. We have a lot of people out there who are veterans, and we want to get them interested in the projects we do.”
VFW members say they eagerly await this Veterans Day and an annual public gathering at 9 a.m. on Nov. 14 in the Connor Salm Gymnasium of the Madison Consolidated High School, 743 Clifty Dr. At this event, area veterans will be publicly recognized for their years of service. Chandler reported that at last year’s event there were more than 300 veterans present.
“This year should be a tremendous turnout because of the Sept. 11 disaster,” said Chandler.

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