The holiday celebrating our nation’s service members is aiming to spawn a new way to give a hand up for those in need at one local Waynedale veterans group this year.
American Legion Post #241 is holding an event on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, serving free meals to anyone with proof of their service in the armed forces. But more importantly, according to one leader of the group, the Post is using the event as a genesis for a new Veterans outreach program.
According to David Miller, Past Commander of the Post, at 7605 Bluffton Road, they are encouraging everyone who comes in to eat, to bring a canned food or personal hygiene item. The Post plans to use the things they collect to begin a kind of Veterans food bank.
The “Veterans Group Pantry,” as Miller calls it, will be the first of its kind in Allen County, he said. And, unlike other state aid such as Food Stamps or Unemployment assistance, the only requirement to get help, will be proof of one’s service.
Youth from the Post’s Junior Shooting group will be collecting, sorting and storing all the items collected, with help from the American Legion Riders. “It gives our youth an opportunity to give back a little bit,” Miller explained.
Vittles that day will include ham-and-bean soup – a military tradition, according to Miller – potato soup, salad, home-made dinner rolls, and made-from-scratch desserts prepared by the Post’s Ladies Auxiliary.
Miller said even the Legion’s District Commander, Jim Pimpe, is planning to come to Fort Wayne to attend, because, “this is one of the truest forms they’ve seen of the Legion’s request to ‘put family first,” he said.
“The most important thing,” Miller said, “is that some vets – like those from Vietnam and Korea – were never welcomed home properly. This is our opportunity to welcome them home, and make them feel like family.
“And today, so many soldiers come home with PTSD and other ailments,” said Miller, who served in the Air Force from 1986 to 2004, “they don’t feel part of any family, and we need to change that.”
Non-veterans also are welcome to enjoy the day’s meal; all that is required is a donation of one’s choice.
For many who have served, events such as these and the holiday in general, holds a special place in their heart. That’s true for 1990 South Side High School graduate Louise Crago.
Crago, 46, joined the Army, right after graduation, and served from 1986 to 1997, working as a Materials, Storage and Handling Specialist, in other words, she says, “a Supply Sergeant.”
“I love Veterans Day for all it stands for,” Crago said. “For those brothers and sisters in uniform before me, those still wearing the uniform, and those that wear the uniform. I am second generation Army. Both my Dad and maternal grandfather were World War II Vets. Veterans Day is a day to say thank you for all the sacrifices. Unless one has worn the uniform, one does not understand the sacrifices that one has to make in both their professional and personal life, as well as for their family.
“Veterans Day is not just a holiday for another crazy sale or a day for an office to close so someone can have a long weekend,” she continued, “It’s important to remind me that I am not alone in this battle. That someone always has my six, and that I’ll never leave anyone behind. It’s to appreciate all I have and have gotten, through another’s sacrifice. And finally, it’s a way to help the next generation understand what I and others have gone through, and what we continue to fight for.”