Local posts busy in community
By Angel Perkins
Bremen VFW Post #8972 and American Legion Post# 191 members do more than share a building in town; they are active in the communities they have grown to live in and love. Evidence of that love was shown last Saturday as members replaced plastic military markers at gravesites of former servicemen and servicewomen, and put flags in the markers in honor of their service, for Memorial Day. Red Hochstetler, VFW lifetime member, said he thought the group put out “about six to seven gross” (at 144 per gross).
Rick Hardy, 3rd District Commander of the post (until his cousin Jay Kling takes the helm June 18) agreed, saying the number of flags put out this year was (at both the Bremen and Ewald or “Little Egypt” cemeteries) was “very close to 900.” He also said that the joint members do “more than just trade war stories.”
Hardy said that when the organization was started in Bremen in 1968, the VFW alone had more than 400 members. Now, that number, including the joint venture membership with the American Legion, is around 200. He said that only three of the charter members are still living. But that doesn’t slow down the efforts to help as many local organizations and individuals that members can.
He explained that the joint posts sponsor high school senior scholarships to winners of the VFW Voice of Democracy Program. This year the ceremony to award the top three oral essay winners was held at LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School in Lakeville.
Four children were also sponsored to attend the Bremen Boys & Girls club this year. “We were approached by the club representative,” Hardy said. “It cost about $50 a year for a child to be a part of the program there.”
Local members, including the Men’s and Women’s Auxiliaries also offer dinner and lunch specials, host charity fundraisers, and prepare food for funerals. “Out of respect for our veteran comrades we do funeral details with a firing squad and bugles,” Hardy said. “We’ve got two National Guard members that help with that and we help fold the flag during the ceremonies to give to the families.”
The posts are involved in the Veterans Day ceremonies, the Bremen Firemen’s Festival parade, Operation: Quiet Comfort, sponsoring little league teams, winners of the Patriot’s Pen, and also donate to the Bremen middle school students’ robotics team. Members even sponsored a dog (at a fee of nearly $3,000) to be trained and given to a disabled veteran.
They offer their meeting place to the local Kiwanis members, the area ABATE group and the Bremen Conservation Club, and the local Bremen post building is also a place to drop off “retired” flags to be disposed of properly. A public event will be held Saturday, June 11 at 4 p.m. for visitors to see how to properly display flags and what to do with unservicable flags.
Most recently the VFW/American Legion members rededicated a new flag for the town to fly outside the Bremen Depot, in conjunction with a public opening and dedication ceremony May 1. Members involved included Rick Hardy, Jay Kling, Red Hochstetler, Mike Venable, Bob Spruit, Kenny Muncy, and American Legion Commander Steve Wise.
Memorial Day services will be led by the posts beginning at 11 a.m. May 30 at the Yellow River bridge where a wreath of flowers will be offered in memory of those lost at sea on Center Street and will continue to the Bremen Cemetery.
Spaghetti and burrito dinners are held the first Wednesday of the month at the VFW/American Legion hall and the fourth Friday of every month member hold a fish fry. These public events help to raise funds for the posts to be able to stay involved in assisting veterans, children and everyone in the community that they try to assist.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work done here by these people,” Hardy explained proudly.