Leland VFW Celebrates First Veterans Day
One year ago this month, Leland area veterans held their first organizational meeting with the goal of founding a new Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Today, Post 12196 is a reality with more than 40 members already working to serve the needs of local veterans and the community at large. We spoke to Vietnam Veteran Gerald Decker, one of the founders of the Post, about bringing the organization together and dealing with the challenges of its first year.
How long have you been a VFW member? What have you gotten out of your involvement with the organization and what opportunities has it given you to serve others?
I have been affiliated with the VFW off and on for almost 10 years. I have served previously as Commander of the Elberton, Georgia Post before moving to Leland in 2016. I have always appreciated the concept of strength in numbers. I know that veterans of all services have issues that are not always addressed in a timely fashion by the Veterans Administration or the government. Alone there is little I can do, but with the support of all my brothers and sisters of all branches of service we can get the attention needed to get things done.
The thing that I get most out of my participation is the camaraderie of fellow service people. We reminisce about the good days and, for some, it is an outlet to share the not so good.
I also enjoy the aspect of being active in the community to promote activities and programs for veterans.
What led you to seek a new Post for Leland?
Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. It also has more veterans than any other county in the state. Since moving to this area, I felt there should be more of a VFW presence in Leland. I thought more could be done to organize and represent veterans in this area.
All veteran service organizations have a mission and purpose. I just happen to subscribe to the VFW mission, which includes only combat veterans.
What has the Post been up to in its first year?
Our goal for this year is to learn how to work as a group. We have an excellent leadership team led by Sr. Vice Commander Dom Calderone, III, Jr. Vice Commander Eric Mens, Adjutant Jim Rich, Quartermaster Don Spaulding, Chaplain Nate Pringle, Service Officer Rich de Moya, Judge Advocate John Hacker, and Trustees John Marone, Tom Walker and Dominick Calderone, Jr. Without their dedication and support, nothing would have gotten done.
In August we made a donation of pastries and funds to the Brunswick Cove Nursing Home to help with their fundraiser. In September we hosted a 9/11 Ceremony at the Belville Memorial Park that included Mayor Bozeman of Leland and Mayor Allen of Belville. Leland’s new fire chief, Chris Langlois and new police chief, Brad Shirley, also gave presentations.
This is the Post’s first Veterans Day, any plans?
We are now in the process of putting together plans for our Veterans Day event to be held at Founders Park in Leland on November 11 at 11 am. Our featured speaker will be Army General (ret.) Dan Allyn. Colonel (ret.) Steven Baker, JROTC Senior Army Instructor at North Brunswick High School, will also speak.
Similar to the Belville event, the community will be able to follow on Zoom if they are unable to join us in person.
What have the challenges been being a new Post when COVID hit? How have you overcome them?
The challenges have been substantial, in my opinion. We are a new group who basically never got a chance to get to know each other. Just as the Post was getting started, only our second meeting following our Charter ceremony, the lockdown started. We resorted to Zoom as a means to stay in touch. Communications at all levels became strained while everyone learned a new technology. It is still an issue for some.
At the suggestion of our Chaplain Nate Pringle and Quartermaster Don Spaulding, we started out by sending cards to everyone and then calling as many as we could. The Zoom meetings allowed us to pick up the pieces and continue to establish ourselves as a Post. By August, we were able to complete all the paperwork, bank accounts and the legal structure.
Additionally, in June we had a change a leadership, in keeping with VFW elections. What are your plans for the future?
Our plans for the future are to continue our mission to be “Boots on the Ground” for local vets. We have no intention of being a committee driven, barroom post. Our goal is to fulfill the mission of VFW: “To foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts. To serve our veterans, the military and our communities. To advocate on behalf of all veterans.” That means being out there doing things.
Our biggest effort to date is a planned golf tournament at Magnolia Greens scheduled for March 3, 2021. We are hoping the community will support this program as our main fundraiser of the year. Proceeds from this will greatly enhance our ability to help veterans in need.
We are interested in finding a home for our new Post as soon as possible. That may be a while, but we feel it is important as a place for veterans to find help, as well as a place for camaraderie and socialization.
How can veterans interested in joining find out more?
For information on qualifications for joining the VFW go to https://www.vfw.org/eligibility. If you find that you do qualify for membership, please contact Leland VFW Post 12196 at 910-408-1934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.