The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3070 is reaching out to the Sumner and Bonney Lake communities for something special and often overlooked: memories.
The VFW post and the Sumner Historical Society are working in tandem to collect war memorabilia, whether it be photos, medals, uniforms or even weapons, to display them at the VFW Hall on Willow Street.
The memory campaign kicked off at the post’s Veterans Picnic last Sunday.
“These are our heroes, the men and women who build this country, and they’re important to us,” said Mike Connor Sr., a vice commander in the post. “All of us have small boxes… all of these memories belong on the wall and deserve to be out in the community.”
Connor, a World War II vet, and his wife Vicki are working with the Sumner Historical Society to help collect, organize, label and safely display these historical items.
Vicki said the post no longer has any military decorations on its walls because as their older members die, their medals and photos often go to family members and get packed away or tossed out.
The post has very little to display at the moment, she said, but some of the items they have include a WWII letter from a soldier to his nephew, an 1898 Philippine War uniform and even a Civil War-era sword.
People from the Plateau and the Valley don’t have to donate their items if they wish to keep them, Vicki said, explaining that photos and documents could be scanned so the originals could remain with their owners.
And while collecting these memories is meant to give recognition and respect to soldiers and officers of past foreign wars, this is also an opportunity for vets who are just coming out of service to discover an organization that can help them reintegrate to civilian life, Conner said.
“It takes years for young people to get back into the world and become part of the community,” Conner said at a Bonney Lake City Council meeting.
Conner said VFW posts are great tools for new vets who are looking for a group of people who share their sort of unique experiences while they adjust to life outside of the armed forces.
“Veterans, especially combat veterans, don’t talk to anyone outside of combat veterans. They don’t brag about their service. It’s all about their team,” Connor continued. “Even at my advanced age now… we found the veterans talked to us very quickly as veterans. They don’t see us as a grandfather or father figure or parent. It’s because we can empathize with them. Inside of each one of us… is buried a 19 or 20 or 25 year old that went out into the world to do what needed to be done.”
Faces of the VFW
Three vets were shooting the breeze during the Veterans Picnic.
Bill Briskly, 83, served in the Navy in Korea; Mike Wright, 65 served in Vietnam and Desert Storm; and Laurie Southard, 40, served in Operation Enduring Freedom, the official name for the Afghanistan operation right after Sept. 11, 2001.
What they were talking about – RV camping, dogs, whatever – wasn’t of any particular importance.
But to each of them, the fact that they could come together and talk was the most important thing.
To Wright, being a part of the VFW meant being able to continue the camaraderie he felt while he was in active duty. To him, it didn’t matter when people served, or how, or where – service is service.
Southard, the newest and possibly the youngest member of Post 3070, expressed the same.
“There is no one else here that served when I served,” she said. “But I don’t really notice the generation gap.”
All three of them were each excited to see their post starting to change in small but important ways.
According to Connor, the post is looking to change from being a ceremonial meeting place to being a family-friendly hangout for vets, their friends and their relatives.
He has plans being drawn up to build an office and start scheduling regular office hours to make the post more accessible. He also wants to re-design the hall to incorporate some Navy memorabilia, including installing some old port holes as windows and even hauling an anchor to somewhere on the property.
The re-design is about opening up the post to younger vets and inviting them in.
“We want to begin showing life here,” Connor said. “Young vets, they need a place to sit down and talk to each other and have resources if they need assistance.”