DAV — Veterans, yes Disabled? Not necessarily

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The Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 24 in Socorro is busy all weekend with Veterans Day activities to honor veterans, as well as to enjoy some time together with the community.

They started yesterday with a donation drive in front of Smith’s Food & Drug and the Socorro post office. Miranda Brown, vice commander of the newly chartered DAV Auxiliary, said the effort features DAV members giving away American flags to anyone who donates to their chapter. Members are still out today, flags at the ready, for anyone who would like to donate.

Other flags — for remembrance — are being placed on the graves of fallen veterans over this weekend by DAV members, Chapter 24 Commander Vidal Moya said.

On Sunday, the DAV holds a Veterans Day ceremony at Isidro Baca Park — the park marked in the middle with a metal and stone pyramid, just north of the Socorro County Courthouse — at 11 a.m., following which all are welcome to a cookout at the DAV Hall at 200 Fifth St., just north of Socorro Electric Cooperative.

Jim Needy, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, urged everyone to attend the ceremony and the cookout afterward, which is open to the public and free of charge. Brown said the DAV and Auxiliary will serve burgers, hot dogs, brats and various side dishes at the cookout. Needy added the DAV Hall features a full bar, pool table and horse shoe pit to add to the fun.

Some local veterans shared what Veterans Day means to them during an interview session at the DAV Hall on Thursday afternoon.

“It means I can honor our living and past veterans who served our country in many wars,” Needy said.

Moya, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, said Veterans Day is a day set aside for something people should be doing all year: being aware of the sacrifices veterans — both men and women — have made for everyone.

“It makes them aware, you know,” Moya said. “It’s at least one day to honor our fallen.”

Moya said the Veterans Day ceremony features a 21-gun salute. They used to do a full honor guard, he said, but they don’t have enough personnel for that anymore.

“We try to recruit young people, but they don’t seem like they want to join the DAV,” Moya said.

Moya said there are a few currently in the military who have said they will join when they are out, but they can’t join the DAV while they are still in the service. However, once they are out they can join — disabled or not, and whether or not they’ve served during war time or been deployed overseas.

“You don’t have to really be disabled to join this organization … just a veteran,” Moya said. “A lot of people don’t understand that concept. They think you have to be disabled.”

Moya said he thought the DAV would get a lot of younger members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the chapter only has about two of them. Moya said they would very much like to have more.

“Yes, I’d like to recruit all the younger members (we can),” Moya said. “‘Cause us old-timers aren’t going to last very much longer. Somebody’s got to take over.”

Moya said anyone who has served in the armed forces can join for $40, the annual fee. Lifetime memberships vary depending on the person’s age — $250 for someone 40 or younger, and free for someone over 80 years old. According to the membership application, life membership can also be obtained through interest-free installment payments with a $40 down payment.

Moya urged any veteran interested in joining the DAV to visit the DAV Hall.

“They’re welcome to come and check out the premises here, and slam a beer or two,” Moya said.

Moya added the DAV Auxiliary just started a couple of months ago and his wife, Annette, is the Auxiliary commander. He specified that it is not a women’s auxiliary; men and women can join, anyone who has had a family member serve in the armed forces. Brown said the family member can be anyone — spouse, uncle, niece, nephew, even cousin.

“It used to be just immediate family,” Brown said. “I think they were starting to have a harder time getting people to join so they kind of expanded the eligibility of it — to pretty much, OK, anyone in your family.”

Brown stressed that it is just the DAV Auxiliary — not a ladies’ auxiliary — and men are just as welcome to join.

Brown said the Auxiliary currently has 27 members, including herself, all charter members. She said that was pretty good for a new organization in a small community. She said they have been working for a few months on getting their Chapter 24 Auxiliary going, and it just became official in October.

Brown said annual dues for the Auxiliary cost $20, and lifetime membership is a little less than for the DAV. Brown said Auxiliary members donate their time to the community and to the DAV. Once the Auxiliary has some money in its coffers, they will donate that to community projects as well, such as the Socorro Storehouse, which hands out commodities to the poor and hungry. She said the Auxiliary might also set up a scholarship for young people.

“Those are just some ideas that we want to do,” Brown said.

Moya said the DAV donates to the Socorro Storehouse, as well as the Socorro County Animal Shelter, Toys for Tots and the Good Samaritan Society. Brown added the DAV donates to more military oriented programs also, such as one that takes disabled veterans skiing every year.

“We do a lot for the community,” Needy said. “And we help veterans as much as possible.”

Needy said the DAV has a van to take veterans to the VA hospital in Albuquerque, and they have volunteer drivers for the task.

Brown added one benefit of becoming a DAV or Auxiliary member is the DAV Hall is a private club — members and their guests can smoke in the bar, and ashtrays abound. She noted smoking in the club is a members’ prerogative; they could vote out the smoking if they want to.

“There’s some old people that still smoke and they get (upset) they can’t smoke anywhere,” Brown said. “Here you can actually smoke and have a beer, you know?”

The commander’s parting thought: “Pray to God and keep your powder dry.”

 

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