10/30/2012 1:03:00 PM Veterans helping veterans: new VFW post in Williams Post members hope to make positive impact in community, looking for permanent home
Members of the Williams VFW post meet at the Williams Senior Center. Clockwise from left: Rick Miller, William Yaw, George Reagor, Bruce W. LaPier, George G. Riojas, Rodger Ely, Stephen F. Bringell, Frank Cedillo, Harry H. Hart, Rick Pedersen and Dick Allen. Ryan Williams/WGCN
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has formed a new post in Williams and is asking the community to assist in establishing its name.
The post is currently accepting veteran name submissions. Any veteran from Williams that was killed in action during any United States conflict will be considered.
"The VFW was formed by veterans in order to help other veterans," said George Riojas, acting post commander. "We could have just named it 'Williams Post 12128,' but we knew we needed to recognize this wonderful community, which is why we want to name it specifically after a Williams veteran."
Many veterans are not aware of the benefits that the Veterans Administration (VA) has made available. The members of the VFW not only want to make these veterans aware of these benefits, but help them to receive them as well.
"There are a lot of veterans in the Williams area, including Ash Fork and the surrounding areas, that we feel we can help," said Harry Hart, post adjutant. "We want to make sure they get the VA benefits that they deserve."
According to Hart, a Vietnam War veteran, the Williams post has approximately 38 members, enough to receive a post charter. Post members intend to have an installation ceremony sometime with the next 60 days. The VFW is hoping to find a building and open a permanent post. Currently, post members meet monthly at the Williams Senior Citizen Center.
"Vietnam veterans are very responsible for a lot of the benefits that are now given to the returning veterans," Riojas said. "They made the government aware of the young veterans coming back and that there wasn't much available to them at the time. We still have a long way to go, but we need to do what we can."
Both Hart and Riojas thanked the senior center for welcoming them and allowing them to hold their meetings on the second Thursday of every month from 6-7 p.m. They also applauded the work of their service officer, who is capable of handling any veteran's VA claims.
"We have a fantastic service officer, he's attended several groups and meetings and picked up quite a bit of information that some veterans aren't aware they're entitled to," said Riojas. "And the senior center has just been fantastic, Max Bishop lets us meet there whenever we need to."
Once the Williams VFW post has its installation ceremony, permanent officer elections will take place. Hart said Riojas was appointed as acting post commander by the state VFW commander, and was then charged with installing all the current acting officers until official elections are held.
Riojas said the post is still looking to add more members. Any U.S. citizen that served in a conflict zone, 30 days consecutive or 60 days non-consecutive, or in an area where he or she received hostile or imminent danger pay is eligible to join. Spouses are also invited.
Riojas said it is hard to get young veterans involved with a VFW post.
"They tend to shy away it seems," he said. "They work and have other things going on in their lives, and that's fine we all understand that. They're young, they come back from a war zone, and they're trying to blend in with the community and be a part of it. However, they have struggles that they might not be aware of yet, and we have to be there to help them. Whether we can help them personally, or connect them to people or organizations that can help them."
Some Williams veterans went to the Flagstaff post before the Williams post was established. Riojas said the Flagstaff VFW was extremely helpful, providing a list of Williams veterans.
For more information contact Hart at (928) 503-2133 or George Reagor at (928) 600-5995. The VFW can also be reached via mail at P.O. Box 397 Williams, AZ 86046. The Williams Senior Citizen Center is at 850 West Grant Avenue.
The VFW's mission is to foster camaraderie among United States veterans of foreign conflicts; and to serve veterans, the military, and their communities, and to advocate on behalf of all veterans. The VFW's vision is to ensure that veterans are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.