Feb. 26, 2007

Lake Mary VFW extends invitation to other vets

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Four recently-elected officers of Lake Mary Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9232 would like to see their post become more visual to the community and to other veterans, hopefully resulting in an increase in its membership.

The Lake Mary VFW has no building to physically advertise its existence, so Commander Rose Heimerl and Quartermaster Dave Gailey, Trustee Jerome Thiemann, and Chaplain Gordy Kubasch want to get the word out to other veterans and their families that the organization does exist.

One of the biggest benefits to being a member of the VFW is the camaraderie.

“It is vets helping vets,” Gailey said.

“If a vet is passing through town and maybe needs a meal, they could contact us and we would make sure they have a place to stay and a meal,” Heimerl said.

“Also, to be able to talk to somebody else who knows what you lived. No disrespect to someone who has never served,” Heimerl said. “I don’t think that I am better, but unless you have done it you cannot totally understand it. For myself, getting out of the military, it was good to have the camaraderie and to have those stories. To talk to someone else who knows what it is like to be away, to be deployed overseas for months.”

The Lake Mary post began in 1963. Its first meeting took place at what was then Eddie Corr’s resort on the east corner of Lake Mary. Thiemann was present at that first meeting and remembers there was a good turnout.

Its first commander was Eddie Kraemer, and its first quartermaster was Martin Schauer.

Presently, the Lake Mary VFW is made up of 53 members from Howard Lake, Lester Prairie, and Winsted.

“We also have some members from Brownton, Silver Lake, and even Minneapolis,” Gailey added.

“Right now we are regrouping, trying to see where we want to go from here with our fundraising and other activities,” Heimerl said.

To get their membership up, Heimerl attempted to get a list of eligible men and women from the county, but because of privacy laws, the county will not hand out a list of those who qualify.

“I had some kids that said, ‘no one asked me to join,’ and I have said, ‘I would be more than willing to ask if I knew who they are.’ If we knew, we would give them a warm welcome,” Heimerl said.

Any citizen of the US is eligible to be a member of the VFW who is serving or has served honorably in the Armed Forces of the US:

1) in a foreign war, insurrection, or expedition;

2) on the Korean peninsula or in its territorial waters for not less than 30 consecutive days, or a total of 60 days; or

3) while a member of the armed forces, served in an area which entitled the individual to receive special pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger.

Heimerl served in the Air Force for nine months during the Gulf War, stationed in Guam. Her job was fixing planes that were bombing Iraq.

Gailey was in the Navy during the Iranian hostage crisis. He was on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean that carried the helicopters that flew in to rescue the hostages.

Thiemann and Kubasch were both in the Army and fought on the ground in Korea for 13 months during the Korean conflict.

“A lot of our membership is older. We would like to get the younger ones involved. They have different ideas,” Kubasch said.

“Membership is a big thing in all of these veteran organizations. We want to be represented in Congress, and the more numbers we have, the better our chances are of keeping our benefits,” Kubasch said.

Although the membership numbers are not large, Lake Mary VFW is an active group.

Heimerl told how Kubasch and Thiemann go out to see area vets that are in the nursing home and homebound. They spend time visiting with them.

McLeod County was so impressed with how Lake Mary VFW does its Christmas giving, it decided to encourage other VFW posts in the county to do the same.

Donations are collected and gifts are bought. Not just one gift, but numerous gifts are given to each veteran.

Both the American Legion and the VFW meet at the nursing home and spend the time visiting, handing out gifts, and maybe singing a song or two.

Many of the VFW members also belong to the American Legion and the dual membership is encouraged; it is just that the VFW members have a more specific eligibility. It is possible to be a member of each and there are individual benefits to each organization.

One of the fundraisers sponsored by the Lake Mary VFW and other VFW organizations is the Buddy Poppy. The Buddy Poppy is sold all year and is different than the American Legion Poppy, which is sold only on one day of the year by the Legion Auxiliary.

For more than 75 years, the VFW’s Buddy Poppy program has raised millions of dollars in support of veterans’ welfare and the well-being of their dependents.

The poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

In February 1924, the VFW registered the name “Buddy Poppy” with the US Patent Office.

The VFW has made that trademark a guarantee that all poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of disabled and needy veterans. No other organization, firm, or individual can legally use the name “Buddy Poppy.”

The Lake Mary VFW is looking ahead to this summer with many service men and women returning from overseas duty.

“We will be having a big influx of men and women, especially in Minnesota, that have gone overseas and will be coming back,” Heimerl said. “When they come in, they are going to need some people to talk to, and our organization, hopefully, can be there to talk to them.”

“If they don’t want to talk, they don’t have to, but we can get them pointed in the right direction. If they need to see a doctor, a psychiatrist, or to get legal advice,” Heimerl added.

“If we don’t have the information, we can find it for them,” Gailey said.

Lake Mary VFW meeting times

Those who are a veteran of a foreign war or conflict and would like more information about the VFW, can contact Rose Heimerl at (320) 224-8599 or Dave Gailey at (320) 485-4306.

The Lake Mary VFW meets the second Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. at the American Legion in Winsted. If it is impossible to make the meetings every month, the VFW is asking that you come once in a while just to see what it is about.

VFW Auxiliary President Margie Heimerl welcomes any interested lady who has a relative that has served in a foreign war to attend the auxiliary meetings the second Thursday of each month at 2:30 p.m. at the Winsted American Legion. Currently, the auxiliary has 44 members.

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