Legion post thanks vets in need with dinner

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 26, 2013

 American Legion members and veterans in need filled up the American Legion hall in Roseville on Veterans Day for a short ceremony to honor their sacrifices and service. After the service, the veterans were all taken out for a meal at Ponderosa Steakhouse.

American Legion members and veterans in need filled up the American Legion hall in Roseville on Veterans Day for a short ceremony to honor their sacrifices and service. After the service, the veterans were all taken out for a meal at Ponderosa Steakhouse.

Photo courtesy of Andy Kocis

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ROSEVILLE — This past Veterans Day, the American Legion post in Roseville gave local homeless veterans a full meal and honors for their service.

Post Commander Jim Wolfe said the annual tradition of getting local veterans together for a trip to a restaurant at a drastically reduced cost was alive and well this past Veterans Day, when a group of roughly 50 people went to a nearby Ponderosa Steakhouse. While some of those were Legion members, Wolfe said the majority were homeless veterans.

“Our hospital/service officer (Larry Prososki) does a lot of work with the homeless veterans, and what he does is he takes them out to some restaurant like Ponderosa or Golden Corral,” Wolfe said. “He takes them out for a nice lunch, because the (shelter) they stay at is basically a hospital, and you know how hospital food is.”

Andy Kocis, the post historian, said Mayor John Chirkun and Roseville City Council members Bill Shoemaker and Jan Haggerty said a few words during a short ceremony at the American Legion hall before they left for the restaurant.

“We had all the different colors up there from all the different branches of the service, the American flag was inside and (the ceremony) turned out pretty well,” Kocis said.

Wolfe said that after the dignitaries spoke, a number of the veterans stood up to talk about what branch they served in, when they served and where, as well as whether or not they saw combat.

He said the ceremony overall was not very long — around 30-45 minutes — but hearing the veterans speak near the end was definitely the highlight.

“You can really see when they’re doing it that their chests swell up with pride,” he said. “They have big smiles on their faces, and it makes them feel really good about it and like, ‘Hey, we’re not being forgotten; someone is actually remembering us. We’re not on the street alone — someone is thinking about us, helping us out,’ and so on.”

Kocis said the dinner itself was well-received by attendees and quite a success.

“It was an all-you-can-eat kind of thing, and you’ve never seen a happier bunch of guys,” Kocis said.

Wolfe said it was an important way to make sure those veterans facing hard times have an opportunity to boost their self-esteem for their service to their country.

“The rest of the year, they get treated like any other homeless person, which is not right. They shouldn’t be homeless to begin with,” he said. “They served our country, and for them to be homeless and treated that way is, in my view, completely wrong.”

Despite the post’s small size — Wolfe put the number of members actively coming to meetings at around 10 — he said they still find ways to help out in the general community and help local veterans. The post holds a Christmas party each year and a “steak out” in June, where people can come by for a steak dinner. It also holds a small Memorial Day ceremony for the veterans who have died in the past year.

The post also donates “a couple hundred dollars” each year to the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Operation Christmas, Wolfe said, which helps the families of veterans get Christmas gifts and food.

“Right now, we have membership issues, so it’s hard for us to do things on a larger scale, but we do what we can,” he said, adding that the post is in the midst of a membership drive.

Nevertheless, he said the Veterans Day event is the big one for the post these days — and one that just makes him feel good to do.

“It’s just one of those things; you go home at night, and you’re just happy the rest of the night because you know you’ve done something so good for someone and made them feel so good when they’re normally just down on their luck,” Wolfe said. “I wish we could do more for them, but we’re a small post and can only do so much.”

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