Dan and I have gotten pretty use to NOT getting up at the crack of dawn, being able to be a bit lazy in the morning and NOT rushing out to work…having a leisurely breakfast and maybe a cup of coffee. Enjoying the American lifestyle. Little things we all take for granted. We’re a spoiled bunch, huh?
But, this morning was slightly different. We had to be up by 6:30 a.m. so we could be on the road by 7:45 a.m. We were attending the DAV’s Zone IV meeting. It was hosted by the Manistique Chapter which was chartered in 1931 by the United States Congress…so they have been helping Veterans for 80 years!
After the registration table, there was a large table filled with all kinds of baked goods; anything from pies, to LARGE loaves of bread, cookies and HOME MADE DONUTS (nope I DIDN’T INDULGE!!) There were a couple of young Amish women there selling their baked goods…it was very hard to resist any of the assortment.
Dan and I went into the room where the meeting would be held. There were many people in attendance (which we were glad to see, especially considering this meeting pretty much covered all of the DAV organizations in da U.P). What hit home with me the most was the age of most of the men and women at this gathering…OLD. On oxygen. Crutches and wheelchairs. Some Vets were from as far away as Battle Creek, Michigan and others from out of state.
Dan has always told me that the DAV is having a difficult time getting younger Vets involved. That much was obvious. I truly do not know if there were any Gulf or Iraqi war vets there or not, but I know that if there weren’t then the last war being represented was the Viet Nam war.
I don’t know if civilians AND military really don’t realize what the DAV does for our Vets or not, but if you don’t know or want to learn more go to the DAV’s website. And if you know of a Veteran, get him or her involved, whether they have been wounded or suffer from PTSD or if they just want to assist other Vets…help get the word out there.
There were assorted speakers, but the one who struck my heart was our dear friend Bob Blevins. He is quite a card to begin with. He retired from the Marines in 1995 and is considered totally disabled…but the things he has done for Vets AND for the DAV…there are not enough KUDOS in the world for Bob. I digress…I wanted to tell you about a man that HE introduced to everyone…and who happened to be seated at our table. The man is 92 years old (doesn’t look it), and looks fit and healthy. But he was a POW in WW II…shot in the back, and he still has that bullet IN him close to his heart.It can't be removed. He and I believe it was 70 other men were captured, tortured and forced to march over 500 miles with little or no food or water. He was the only one who survived.
By the time the United States could secure his release, he weighed less than 100 pounds and could not even walk. The U.S. exchanged 7 prisoners for this one man. When OUR troops went to carry him out, he said “I will walk out of here on my own!” And he did.
To talk with this man, you’d never know he had been through such an ordeal.
And Bob Blevins and his wife Dee took most of their savings and built a cabin (I told you a bit about this last year) which they call the Wounded Warriors Camp. Veterans can come stay for a a few days and it is free. It is out in the woods, peace and quiet. The Veteran can be by himself/herself if they choose to. It is a beautiful cabin….built by Bob and Dee and some friends who donated time and energy.
One thing that Senator Tom Casperson talked about was how civilians do not fully realize HOW the war affects family and friends once the soldier has returned. How it is for the family of a soldier suffering from PTSD, a man or a women who hides in the closet during a thunderstorm or when firecrackers are being set off. So, one of the goals is to get it on the front burner to help the WHOLE family…not just the Veteran.
The DAV is dedicated to one single purpose…building better lives for all our nation’s disabled veterans and their families.
And as with everything else, the DAV is hurting for money to continue to do what they do (again, please go to their website and see all that they do .The biggest thing is they assist Veterans in getting their disability claims processed and weigh through that red tape for the Vet). So, if you ever happen to be someplace you can buy a raffle ticket or two, or put a buck in a donation can or buy a DAV calendar, anything…please do. And if you ARE a Veteran, try to get involved with your local chapter. Some chapters ARE paying half of the annual dues for you. I believe the annual dues are $40. You can also get a lifetime membership (which is what Dan and several others have done). The cost of that varies with your age.
Right now, the DAV is fighting a big fight against the privatization of Veteran hospitals.
Go to www.dav.org for all the info.