Deployed? These guys have too

By Mary Lou Gorny
Hilltop Times Editor
January 3, 2013

So you've deployed, come back and are eligible for a campaign medal signifying you've served in the AOR. You're probably not aware that you now qualify to join an organization on base and meet with some of those who have served with distinction.

Every first Tuesday of the month, a group of veterans meets at the base in the Chiefs Room, the one farthest east at The Landing. This month it's Jan. 8.

VFW Post 8868, Minuteman Post, Commander Darin Campbell said, "It's a different military now than it was then (Korea and Vietnam War), but it's a chance to rub shoulders with that brotherhood."

A reservist who works as a civilian on base, Campbell explained the post holds informal meetings, and works for members and families welfare. The group raises funds for Operation Warm Heart, conducts flag folding ceremonies for Eagle Scouts, and holds Buddy Poppy Drives twice a year.

Campbell quietly explained that the group has its strengths as the older veterans aren't there to trade war stories. "They don't talk too much about their past experiences." Although he did credit a tip or two from some of them in helping with the deployment he last served for him and his family.

"They understand a lot of similarities that a spouse is not going to know," he said, allowing that some things are different given the higher rate of casualties from past conflicts.

Campbell said there's a common saying about retirees and there being two types of those who serve --- while there are those who take the uniform off and never go back to anything to do with the military, there are those who are still very much involved. Campbell calls them "the Silent Guard." You might see them at The Landing having a cup of coffee or an occasional beer, but as veterans they are not always so silent.

"They go to the open houses for seniors and listen to find out what is being changed on the benefits," said Campbell. "They are keeping an eye out."

Campbell joined the VFW in 1998 and found family obligations kept him away, but once the kids stopped needing him so much for transportation to soccer games and the last one got a driver's license, he got more involved. Now he has the opportunity to serve as commander.

"I would like the young Airmen to know they can join. They can do these things. They can present checks for Operation Warm Heart or gift certificates to the wings on base," Campbell said.

It's a friendly bunch, he said. And they always appreciate an extra hand or two during the poppy drives around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The activities usually mean they approach people with a poppy and if they wish to donate they accept the donations. Brochures are available if anyone asks questions and a Boy Scout Troop usually helps out.

The welfare of all veterans is ultimately a driving force for the group -- all generations of service men and women, and their families and the active duty members serving, and their families.

"Our VFW post helps me help others, folks now walking my path of 50 years ago," said Wayne Pendergrass, current member. "There's nothing as satisfying as coming alongside someone in need and extending a helping hand. That's what we're here for, our reason for being."

There are annual dues or there is the option of a lifetime lump sum. Membership offers additional benefits on insurance rates, pharmacy cards, travel offerings and other savings.

And of course, there is the opportunity to get to know some of those who served before.

For more information contact Campbell at darincampbell@yahoo.com.

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