Hometown Hero: Honor your local veterans | CraigDailyPress.com

Hometown Hero: Honor your local veterans

From left, Dave Walters, Jim Meineke, Bennie Otero and Mark Wick display the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 commemorative flag, a ceremonial flag and the Solider's Cross on Sunday morning at the VFW. The four of them are among the many veterans living in Craig and Moffat County who have fought for their country and are acknowledged as part of Veterans Day.
Andy Bockelman

If you go

What: Veterans Day Dinner

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265

The meal is open to all members of the military past and present who have served their country. Family members are welcome, as well. For more information, call 970-824-2923.

On Nov. 11, 1919, one year after the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the beginning of Armistice Day within the United States, a day to remember those who had fought and sacrificed in the great battle. The date has gone through several changes in the past 94 years, most notably in its name, but the idea of honoring those who devoted their time to protecting their country through military service remains the same.

On Veterans Day, Craig acknowledges those within the community who have served in the military and who continue to serve the region in various capacities. Organizations such as the American Legion Post 62, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and other such groups are full of folks who give their all for Northwest Colorado.

What makes it more impressive is how much they’ve already done in the past. Before bettering Craig and its residents with fundraising activities like last month’s food drive, handing out scholarships for local students, leading the Fourth of July parade or just providing a weekly game of bingo — to name a few of their services — the men and women who have earned the title of “veteran” had to go through a lot.

For Craig’s Jim Meineke, joining the military almost was written in the stars. His birthday of Nov. 10 is the same as the date recognized as the founding of the United States Marine Corps in 1775.

“I was born to be a Marine,” he said.

Meineke served in the Korean War, enlisting in 1951 and was awarded three Purple Hearts. However, the wounds that got him the honors are not what he chooses to remember from his time with the Corps.

“What stands out most is the comradeship of my fellow servicemen of all branches,” he said. “I think that’s truly a highlight of what our troops can do together as a unit.”

VFW Post Commander Mark Wick agreed that a sense of camaraderie is something built up among most veterans. Wick was in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1972, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam.

“It’s a lifelong commitment,” he said.

Area veterans have a duty to continue giving back to their community, Wick said.

Part of that is taking care of their own. The Buddy Poppy initiative helps raise funds for veterans who are going through difficult financial times.

Other instances include the funeral services the town’s veterans host on Memorial Day or whenever else a former soldier is in need of honoring.

“Anything for our community, anything for our veterans,” Wick said.

Local veterans will be on their feet Monday with an assembly at Moffat County High School taking place in the morning and a special dinner for veterans and their families Monday night at the VFW.

The relationship between a town and its veterans is one of “give-and-take,” said Guy Bradshaw, whose career with the U.S. Army lasted for more than a decade. Bradshaw fought with American forces in Iraq and returned home in 2006.

Since then, he has been glad to pitch in with veteran activities. What’s more, he appreciates the attitude Craig has toward those who have been in his situation, as opposed to some communities that are apathetic or even hostile toward those with military backgrounds.

“I have never been mistreated anybody in this town from when I was active to now,” he said. “People here really support their veterans, and it’s one of the best communities I’ve ever seen.”

As supportive as Craig can be of the people who fought for its freedoms overseas or otherwise, Bradshaw said many people in town would be surprised to learn how many veterans actually reside in the area, many of whom would prefer to either remain anonymous about their service or at least stay out of the limelight.

Wick said he understands the hesitance some have in being active members of veteran organizations.

“It took me 40 years to come to terms with Vietnam,” he said. “These kids coming home right now want to get as far away as they can from the government and the military and raise their families and enjoy their lives. They paid the price for it.”

A challenge coin issued by the VFW’s Colorado office awaits soldiers who have recently returned from combat or those who have waited for some time to approach the organization.

“When they’re ready, we’ll be here to help them,” Wick said.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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