BRANSON – Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars post and auxiliary members filled 172 “Comfort Rucks” for Missouri’s homeless veterans during a Council of Administration community service event Friday, Sept. 27 at the Chateau on the Lake.
Missouri VFW posts, their auxiliaries, corporate sponsors and groups donated rucksacks, personal care items and cold-weather gear to fill the rucksacks, which will be distributed at veteran outreach events around Missouri.
“There are 523 counted homeless veterans in the state of Missouri,” State Homeless Chairman Ted Donaldson, Joplin, said. “However, there is a large part of Missouri where we cannot verify the numbers of homeless of veterans, so I am sure they are underreported. We use the numbers from homeless counts to be as accurate as we can.”
Department Commander Troy Williams said service officers and members accepted nearly 50 referral forms for compensation and pension benefits and answered questions about the organization at six locations in Branson.
Williams is asking Missouri VFW posts and their auxiliaries to become more active in their communities with events like the Branson outreach.
“I thought it was great fun,” District 1 Commander David Klaassen, Richmond, said. “We were out in the community, and people got to see us.”
State Surgeon and Lincoln Post 5925 Commander Royce Kelb is active in Benton County helping veterans apply for benefits.
“Right now, the Blue Water Navy Act allows veterans who were 12 miles off the Vietnam shore to apply for benefits,” he said. “The herbicides came out over the water and these veterans have the same kind of cancers and health problems. They need to reach out to a VFW service officer.”
VFW Quartermaster General Debra Anderson, a Desert Storm veteran and Missouri VFW member, represented the national organization at the meeting.
“The community service and outreach activities are what the VFW is all about,” she said.
Klaassen said community outreach events will connect the VFW with veterans who need help.
The events at the Council of Administration are a first for POW/MIA Chairman Joseph Cerchi.
“Usually, after the meetings, everyone disappears,” he said as he helped fill rucksacks. “Look at this, it is hours after the meeting, and we’re all standing here like a family.
“That’s what veterans are, family,” he said.