The men at the Montpelier Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #944 and the American Legion Post #109 in Montpelier are a close knit, friendly group of gentlemen. They take great pride in their hall on Empire Street, just south of the downtown business district.
The organizations had been housed under separate roofs prior to the purchase of the former Demuth Building that was sold to the VFW and American Legion in the early 1980s. Since that time, members have been hard at work remodeling the facility. It is a building with lots of light, new carpeting, new flooring, a small kitchen with a new stove, and countertops with cupboards that double as storage for tables.
Although the facility was looking very nice and fresh, the walls looked empty. The men of the VFW/American Legion wanted to honor veterans of past wars, and have created displays in remembrance of those who served our country. The original charters, once stored in the basement, are proudly displayed framed and under glass. This reporter was honored and touched to see the name or her own grandfather William E. Shatzer, Sr. as a charter member of both organizations. The American Legion was first chartered in 1919 with the local receiving its charter in 1920. The VFW was chartered in 1932, and the Disabled American Vets in 1939.
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Recently, member Larry Sines, Sr., a veteran of the Vietnam War, donated metal signs honoring each branch of the service: the United States Navy, the United States Army, the Marines, the United States Air Force, and the Coast Guard. When asked why he donated the signs, he said that the wall looked empty, and he wanted to give back to those who served. His son, Larry Sines, Jr., had written that “it’d be very nice for him to get some recognition for his natural sense of giving. He’s one of the most patriotic people I know.”
This generosity is manifested by other members of the local VFW/American Legion, who member Kevin Motter notes have a spirit of giving when it comes to their hall and their community. The walls are covered with pictures of local veterans, memorabilia, flags, and helmets from different wars.
In addition, they are a presence at funeral services for veterans, place flags and brass holders at gravesites in cemeteries, take part in annual Memorial Day services, parades, and properly dispose of, with honor, old flags which are tattered and torn. They sponsor an annual pancake breakfast, and also chili dinners. Members, including Mr. Motter, present programs to Second graders at the elementary school. This includes education on how the Pledge of Allegiance originated and patriotism. They also receive coloring books to go along with the presentations. Motter said that “We’ve got to teach them (while they are) young what our country is all about.”
Member Jerry Keesbury is starting a Cell Phones for Soldiers collection. Old cell phones can be donated to the VFW/American Legion and they will be sent on to the larger organization and recycled. Profits are then used to buy phone cards for those serving overseas. The local organization is also very active in raising funds to send local youth to Boy’s State and Girl’s State. During these events, students from each high school attend a week long simulation of local and state governments with students participating as someone serving in office, or even police officers. Motter said that this was a wonderful way to teach high school students about how governments run on a local and state level. Last year they were able to send three young men and three young women to the yearly event. Boy’s State is held at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Girl’s State is held at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. Motter added that it is also a fun way to learn about the experience of dorm life in preparation for college, though he believes they are in a much more controlled environment while at Boy’s/Girl’s State. The students will get to hear the governor and the current Chief of Justice of the Supreme Court during their week. Some students will advance to Boy’s/Girl’s Nation which is held in Washington, D.C.
The American Legion sponsors an Americanism Contest each year for those in the sophomore, junior and senior years in high school. There are three girls and three boys in each age level who will win a trip to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.
Local members are working on a memorial for the Montpelier residents who served in the military and returned to the community to continue to serve their hometown and to make a difference in Montpelier. The monument will be about 5 ½ feet tall, and about 3 feet wide, and they plan to display it at the front of the building. It will be engraved with figures of servicemen and insignia for each branch. It will read “In tribute to the Veterans of Montpelier who gave in peace and in the war.” They plan to dedicate the memorial after their luncheon which follows the annual Memorial Day service at Riverside Cemetery.
Motter said that the community has been “So darn good to us” when donating for the VFW and American Legion’s causes and fundraisers. Members are generous too, often digging deep into their own pockets to fund activities for the community and for their building and organization. More info on the organization can be found online at peliervets.com.
The building is open every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and all veterans, young and old are welcome to attend. Motter and Keesbury both emphasized that having a safe place to talk about the war has been very beneficial to veterans who are not likely to discuss their war experiences to anyone other than a fellow service member.
So next time you see the honor guard at a loved one’s funeral, receive a flag in their honor, or see a flag on your family veteran’s gravesite, please remember to thank a vet. And next time you’re at a parade and you see our nation’s colors flying, stand up and put your hand over your heart, or salute them for their service to our country.