By Larry Grooms, special to Aerotech News
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3000 members are no strangers to dangers or living on short rations. At some past time, each faced and overcame enemies and obstacles even more threatening than the anti-virus orders which disrupted their community service work for much of the year.
Headquartered at 4342 West Ave. L in Lancaster, VFW Post 3000 began the year 2020 with a full list of regular social activities, support missions for needy veterans and their families, and community service projects benefiting youth.
The first blow to the Post schedule fell in early March, when state and county government orders closed indoor gatherings for meetings, dining and entertaining.
Other health restrictions quickly followed, posing challenges to Post leadership to modify, limit or temporarily discontinue some activities. Despite restrictions, the Post bar remains open, and outdoors steak nights and third Sunday brunches continue. Post 3000 reports having 462 members, all having served overseas in wartime.
In addition to the regular VFW members, Post 3000’s Auxiliary lists 265 members who are qualified as immediate family members of American veterans who served in foreign wars.
Post 3000 official Tim Bryant said the VFW’s core value is the phrase, “vets serving vets and their families,” so it was especially painful when the state imposed a quarantine on veteran residents and spouses living in the Pete Knight Veterans Home in Lancaster and the Barstow Veterans Home. Bryant said the retirement home residents have not been allowed to see visitors since March 2 due to COVID pandemic restrictions.
Still, VFW Post 3000 is working creatively to provide services. VFW Auxiliary District 5 President Sherree Bryant is leading a letter writing campaign from the Auxiliaries in the district and also from local school students to send thank-you letters to all veterans and spouses in the Pete Knight and Barstow Veterans Homes. The goal is to have letters arriving by Veterans Day and beyond.
Activated, but currently less busy due to infrequent funeral services, is the VFW Post 3000 Honor Guard Team, comprised of members Larry Pratt, Bruce Carroll, Everett Bean, Dan Gordon, Ron Guyadeen, Steve Cronk, Mac Bennett, Chris Andrews, Richard Short, Henry Weaver and Fred Villa. During peak periods prior to the pandemic outbreak, the Honor Guard provided 10 to 15 full military honor services a month at Veterans Cemeteries, including Arvin and Riverside National cemeteries, Joshua Memoria Park, Lancaster District Cemetery, Miramar NAS and Mt. Whitney in Arvin and Riverside County.
Pratt, who previously served as Post 3000 and VFW District 5 Chaplain, also organized VFW Post 3000’s Grace Veterans Fellowship, which donated, over a five-year period, more than $150,000 to directly support veterans and their families across the Antelope Valley and beyond.
Duane Svoboda, 2020-2021 post commander, said ongoing charitable activities and services to veterans and their families include temporary homeless housing, services for funeral, burial or cremation, medical co-pays and nutrition and health services.
Because of its proximity to Edwards Air Force Base, VFW Post 3000 also continues to provide direct support for active duty members stationed there. That support has included:
• Airfare for a military member from an overseas duty location to participate in the memorial for a fellow active duty member at Edwards;
• Home furnishings for a newly married airman first class;
• Paying transportation and housing costs for an Army Vet from Pennsylvania to California to receive alternative medical treatment due to complications from the Burn Pits while stationed in Afghanistan.
For more than a decade, VFW Post 3000 sponsored an Easter Egg hunt for children in Quartz Hill, and also hosted free dinners for veterans and their families at Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as shipping Angel Tree gifts to active duty military and veterans’ families in the Antelope Valley.
Due to the fact that many Posts around the country are currently restricted, some regular projects are restricted, including fundraisers to pay ongoing operational costs, including rent, utilities, staff, dues, fees and funding for ongoing state and national VFW projects such as the student scholarship essay competitions Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen, and the Homeless Veterans Fund, Wheelchair Games, National Home, and others.
VFW Auxiliary District 5 President Sherree Bryant and VFW District Commander Tom Pugliese of Lucerne Valley organized brisket dinner fundraisers to share among posts and auxiliaries in the region struggling to meet their obligations.
Prior to the shut-down, Desiree Deville volunteered at the Pete Knight Veterans Home, the Post held bi-monthly Pizza Poker nights. On Sept. 12, Patti Adams and Karen Fournier, VFW District 5 Conductress organized a drive to provide 75 food baskets to veterans and families in need. They secured fresh-frozen chickens from Vallarta Supermarkets, along with additional food supplies from the Veterans Resource Center in Palmdale.
The baskets were delivered to VFW families in Palmdale, California City, Boron, Mojave and Rosamond. The next VFW Post 3000 and District 5 Auxiliary food drive is under way for Thanksgiving.