We lost some good members last month as our Chaplain pointed out in his column. It is always difficult to lose friends. About the same time, a young state politician died unexpectedly leaving behind a wife and two small children. From reading the article, he seemed like a nice guy and was an ethical and hardworking individual with a bright future. The governor declared that all the government flags be flown at half mast and asked that everyone fly their flags at half mast on that particular day. I have no problem with that request, but we had two members who served in two different conflicts, Korea and Vietnam, who passed and no flags will be flown at half mast in their memory nor would either I suspect, if they could speak for themselves, would want the flags lowered to half mast. Soldiers simply go about their duty protecting and defending America, and those that come home move on with life. But I notice that when I read the obits how many are shown wearing their uniforms from a past war; a last time to wear it in public. So Chuck and Ken didn’t have a flag flown at half mast since neither was a politician, but we members of VFW draped our Charter in black and remembered them and their service to our country.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was remembered by our Post by distributing American Flags and commemorative Poppies (a black ribbon attached to the poppy) at the Edmonds Classic Auto Show. Unlike other Poppy distributions, we had no donation can as we simply wanted to remember the 2,977 victims of the terrorist attacks 10 years ago. As we all know, life continues on as demonstrated by the many hundreds or perhaps thousands who attended the car show. I am sure that everyone in attendance at the show realized the significance of the day, but our Post, in handing out the Poppies and flags, wanted to make sure they had something tangible to remember that we will never forget. Thanks to the Post members who volunteered their time on a hot Sunday day to help the Post out on this project. And particular thanks to Jr. Vice Ron Clyborne who happens to be the head of the Chamber of Commerce and secured a spot for us in the Chamber tent, which was located strategically at 5th and Main.
Our November meeting falls on Veterans Day and the Edmonds Senior Center will be closed. We have moved the meeting to the American Legion Post 66 Hall on 6th and Dayton in Edmonds. Lunch will be served.
Email or call Bob Crawford if you can help out on 11/4-5 at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-909-4893.
As Post Commander, I attended the convention in San Antonio. This is the third convention I’ve attended and I am finally getting a pulse on the National VFW organization. While there are a lot of speeches (this year sounded like I was attending the Republican Party Convention with Rick Perry and Mitt Romney making partisan speeches), there is only one agenda item that concerns you directly as a member of VFW, the proposed amendments to National By-Laws, and Manual of Procedure. There are a couple of amendments that I would like to pass on that were brought to the floor for vote after much discussion. The first was changing the timing of member dues. Dues are currently based on calendar year with the bills going out in July in order for everyone to be paid up by December. Now, dues will be for a full 12 months based on the actual month the member paid. The Quartermaster now will have members with memberships expiring throughout the year. I felt this was an awkward way to track dues, but it was passed. Another change affecting Posts are that Post Officers will now be elected in May. With the National Convention being moved to July and Department’s convention in June, this is going to put the time squeeze on Posts that meet late in the month so installation of officers may now take place at the same meeting of the voting. One of the most controversial proposed amendments which did not pass was to have a study of allowing males to join the Ladies Auxiliary (which would become the Auxiliary). The men allowed to join would be the spouses or sons of female VFW members. As of now, only female family members of male VFW members are allowed to join the Ladies Auxiliary. While voted down this year, this is an amendment that will continue to come up in the future. The final proposed amendment I wanted to discuss came from the Washington Department and District One was to have VFW support the reinstatement of the draft to minimize the multiple deployments now being required of our service members. A Senior Vice Commander from Hawaii opposed the resolution saying that draftees made poor service members. I will have to remember to tell that to the draftees who were on my track in Nam, particularly the MBA from NYU. Also, nothing was mentioned about the sky-rocketing suicide rate which is the result of multiple deployments.
The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs is sponsoring a raffle in conjunction with the Washington State Lottery. The proceeds will go to provide financial assistance to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan through the Veterans Innovations Program. Tickets are $10 and the proceeds of every ticket sold directly benefits soldiers and their families. I would normally not support gambling in this newsletter, however, since I never win anything, I look at my $10 ticket as a contribution to help out our young soldiers returning home.
We have had a number of new members in the recent months, so I thought I would pass along some of the protocol that will make those of you unfamiliar with VFW feel a tad more comfortable while attending meetings. Hopefully, this doesn’t come across as being dogmatic, but only as observing the traditions of those veterans who have come before us. As VFW is an organization comprised of veterans, its structure is loosely based on military protocol. First, during meals, caps will not be worn. Actually, my mother taught me that one. During prayers by the chaplain, members will remove their caps only if the chaplain removes his. If the chaplain remains covered, so should the members. If uncovered during a prayer, the hat should be placed on the extended closed fingers of the right hand in such a way that the Cross of Malta is exposed and over the heart. Only official hats may be worn in a meeting. If you forget your VFW cap, the Quartermaster may have a spare you can borrow, or you may simply remained uncovered for the meeting. As far as gavel code is concerned, two raps means stand and one rap means sit. Pretty straight forward. The military salute shall be given in all ceremonials or meetings when a member wishes to address the commander or presiding officer. I hope that this quick lesson in protocol is taken in the correct vein, to make a new member feel more comfortable and integrate more quickly into the VFW.
We are currently looking for teachers for our annual Teacher of the Year award. If you know anyone that teaches in grades 1-5, 6-8, or 9-12 and teaches patriotism and would be a good VFW Post candidate, please let Fred Apgar know. The teacher doesn’t have to be from our area as long as we are the only Post who sponsors them.
Our Post has become very active in participating in Veterans Day activities at various schools in the Edmonds School District as well as the Mukilteo School District. Rock Roth maintains a list of those Post members who would like to participate in classrooms or assemblies. Rock’s email address is email@example.com and please indicate where you feel comfortable participating i.e., speaking to a classroom, an entire assembly, or none of the above—just there to show the flag. In the past, our members have received as much as they have given and everyone has enjoyed the interaction with the young students so please contact Rock if you are interested.
At the Department Convention, someone stated that VFW had lost 700,000 members in the last decade. Our WWII veterans were the core of VFW when I joined in 1969 with a few of us Vietnam vets tagging along. Now, Vietnam veterans make up a core constituency of VFW, but those vets also have the Vietnam Veterans of America they can join just as the younger vets have their particular veterans groups. However, as I have often stated, as a veteran your voice can be heard through as many veterans groups you join. There is no prohibition against belonging to the VFW, American Legion, or any other group of veterans where you qualify for membership. Congress doesn’t listen to one individual voice, but they sure as heck listen to the collective voices of the VFW or the American Legion It is important to reach out to all veterans who are qualified to join the VFW and ask them for their support by becoming a member. Make sure you carry an application with you, and, if you need one, just let the Quartermaster know and she will get them to you ASAP.
Just as important as having veterans join our Post, is having them retain their membership. We have been making an effort to include our new members in our Post activities. Hopefully, a lot of the newer members will volunteer to speak at the local schools during the Veterans Day activities
As way of an introduction to the article below which was written by Senior Vice Fred Apgar, each month we have a speaker. Although we have had a number of excellent guest speakers, it is always a treat to have one of our own speak. In September, we had two of our own, Post member Fred Dietrich and his wife, Auxiliary Chaplain Nancy Dietrich. So with that introduction, I’ll let Fred Apgar tell you their story and as it was told to us.
Like many young high school students, Fred Diedrich joined the Army upon graduating from high school. He left Coos Bay, Oregon for basic training after which he volunteered for Airborne training, which eventually took him to Ft. Benning, Georgia and then to Camp Mackall in North Carolina for advanced training. Fred departed New York City on 28 December 1943 on a troop ship and landed at Bangor, Ireland on 8 January 1944. He was assigned to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Red Devil’s) and sent to Wollaton park in Nottinghamshire, England. D-Day arrived, and at 2:00 AM on 6 June 1944, Fred and the other members of his regiment boarded C-47’s for the short hop across the English Channel. Operation Overlord was underway, and the Red Devils, as well as hundreds of other paratroopers, parachuted into Normandy several hours ahead of the storming of the beaches. Their immediate objective was to capture the town of Sainte-Mere Eglise and then to secure crossings at the Merderet laFiere and Chef-du-Pont Rivers. Like most paratroop units that participated in Operation Overlord, they were dropped at wrong locations and experienced difficulty in linking up with each other as planned. Fred found himself attached to the 505th PIR and later with the 507th PIR. Despite the huge obstacles that had to be overcome, Fred and his unit remained in contact with the Germans until being relieved in early July. In late July, Fred met a young English girl named Nancy Stanley. Nancy lived with her parents in Beeston. Nancy and her family had experienced the war’s fury first hand during the numerous German bombing raids that took place in the Midlands in from 1940 and into early 1942. During one of those raids, a bomb exploded near their home, raining down debris all over the area and causing substantial damage to the Stanley home. Fred and Nancy dated, having established a liking to each other. He asked Nancy to write to him when he returned to action in Europe, which she promised to do. One Sunday morning in September, Fred and his unit disappeared. They were off to participate in Operation Market Garden, which was an Allied effort to shorten the war by seizing control of strategically located bridges leading to Germany. On 17 September 1944, Fred’s Regiment jumped into Holland with orders to seize control of the Nijmegen Bridge. After securing the bridge at Nijmegen and engaging the Germans for six weeks, the Red Devils moved south to the Ardennes and combat operations in the Battle of the Bulge. Fred participated in the defense of St. Vith. They successfully defended the city and delayed the German advance until mid-December when the unit was ordered to fall back. Less than five months later, the war in Europe was over, and Fred was serving in an Honor Guard unit in Berlin. As promised, Nancy had faithfully written letters to Fred while he was involved in three major combat operations. Theirs was a romance by mail. In one of his letters, Fred proposed marriage, and her immediate response was a resounding “yes”. Since Fred had been scheduled for a furlough, the wedding was planned for October 22nd. All was in readiness; however, the needs of the Army prevailed. Fred’s furlough was cancelled, and he received orders to return to the United States. Nancy knew that “doing nothing” was not an option so she wrote a letter to the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Major General James Gavin. Shortly thereafter, Fred was summoned to General Gavin’s Headquarters in Berlin. The General, now aware of Fred and Nancy’s dilemma, offered Fred the use of his private plane to fly to England so that the marriage could take place as planned. After a brief honeymoon in the beautiful hills of Derbyshire, Fred returned to Berlin. Soon, he was on a troop ship headed home. Seven months later, on 2 May 1945, the newlyweds were reunited. Nancy sailed to America on the Queen Mary with over 2,000 other war brides and more than 900 babies. After a cross country train ride that deposited the English war brides and their babies in towns and cities all across America, Nancy, and two other brides, finally arrived on the west coast to join their husbands. Fred and Nancy have been married for 67 years. They have two sons; Dr. Richard Diedrich who resides in Bayfield, Colorado, and Paul Dietrich of Seattle. They have four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.