Homewood veterans were treated Saturday, June 14, to a picnic lunch at Marie Irwin Center, news about two veterans programs, music and a good old fashioned game, a cake walk.
As Char Dyer, chairwoman of the Homewood Veterans Committee, observed, Saturday was a convergence of patriotic events. In addition to the local veterans lunch, it was Flag Day and the 239th anniversary of the U.S. Army.
To honor the veterans in attendance, the committee presented each with a fabric star from the Stars for Our Troops program.
Committee member Amy Crump read the information provided by the program, which addresses veterans from the star's point of view:
"I am part of our American flag that has flown over a home in the U.S.A. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that tou are not forgotten."
The news included an announcement by Wally Burns VFW Post 8077 Commander John Beele that the post will sponsor an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., in the fall.
Dyer noted the sponsorship had a bigger scope that she at first thought.
"I thought it was one veteran," she said. "But the VFW is sponsoring a whole plane."
That means more opportunities for local World War II veterans to visit war memorials in the nation's capital.
"There's so much you guys have done, and now the community wants to give back to you," Beele said.
Anyone interested in more information about the Honor Flight program and about the fall trip can contact Beele at 708-957-0600 or [email protected].
The group also heard a presentation from Steve Miller, representing the new Home for Vets program started by he and his wife, Bettina.
Miller, a Gulf War veteran with real estate experience, said many service men and women who return from Afghanistan and Iraq are having trouble rebuilding their lives. Some are even homeless, he said. And that's a problem Home for Vets is designed to address.
"We are committed to help those people who have served their country and are coming home," he said.
He noted that homelessness does not necessarily mean living on the streets. Often veterans and their families are living with friends or relatives, but they would prefer to have a home of their own.
The program will provide opportunities for low-cost housing.
One veteran asked if the group was affiliated with Habitat for Humanity, a program that builds new homes and helps families get affordable financing. Miller said Home for Vets is not affiliated with Habitat but performs a similar service.
The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization is based in Homewood, but the group is already making connections throughout Chicagoland.
The Kelly Campos Band provided music throughout the luncheon. Campos received a big round of applause for her a capella rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the event.
In addition to the band, veterans received another musical treat, an a capalla performance of the Marine Hymn — all three verses — sung by Beele.
The cakewalk proved to be a popular activity following lunch. When Crump asked if anyone had participated in a cakewalk before, only one hand was raised, but everyone caught on quickly. It wasn't long before more than a dozen donated cakes had been claimed by winners of cakewalk rounds.
Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]