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4/24/2013 2:00:00 PM
Leuign Osier VFW Votes To Merge With Waldoboro Post
Leuign W. Osier Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8395 members Roy Benner Sr., Jon Poland Sr. and Fred Hanna are seen under a wall of photographs and certificates that commerorate the military service of Bristol-area veterans. (Shlomit Auciello photo)
Leuign W. Osier Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8395 members Roy Benner Sr., Jon Poland Sr. and Fred Hanna are seen under a wall of photographs and certificates that commerorate the military service of Bristol-area veterans. (Shlomit Auciello photo)
By Shlomit Auciello

Sixty-six years after it was chartered, nine members of the Leuign W. Osier Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8395 voted to close the post that has been operating since April 17, 1947 and merge with Soule-Shuman Memorial Post 4525 in Waldoboro.

"What we need is eight officers," Commander Alton Simmons told the group at the April 18 meeting. "I don't want the role, but I would do it for a year if it would stay open."

Simmons, a 26-year Army veteran of World War II and Korea, has been commander of Post 8395 for more than a decade and previously served in a similar role in Waldoboro for 11 years.

According to VFW policy, a functioning post must have a commander, senior vice commander, junior vice commander, quartermaster, chaplain and three trustees.

Earlier in April, Post 4525 issued a press release describing its activities in the larger community and expressing concern that reduced participation by veterans might lead to the closure of that post.

Twenty-year Army veteran Roy Benner Sr. said he would be a trustee, if it would keep the post open. Benner served 20 years in the Army and was active during Operation Desert Storm.

"I'm going to regret to say it but I'm not going to be quartermaster," Benner said.

Vietnam veteran Jerry Elwell said he was willing to be a trustee as well.

Junior Vice-commander Dan Baty, a Navy veteran of Korea, said he was willing to continue in that role.

"I guess Don [Smith, an Army veteran of Korea and Vietnam] will take senior," Simmons said

John O'Connor, who served in the Navy and Merchant Marine during World War II, said he would serve as chaplain again.

Elwell said he has medical issues that make it difficult to volunteer for a higher level of commitment. That feeling was echoed by others in the group, all of whom served in the Vietnam War or earlier conflicts.

"What's happening with the VFW is the bulk of work was done by wives and the auxiliary and World War II veterans," Elwell said. He said those like him, who served in Vietnam, were getting sick and that one could not blame the younger veterans of the Iraq conflicts for not being involved.

The paperwork you have to go through to run a post for five members - it isn't worth it," Vietnam veteran Stanley Benner said. He had served as quartermaster but is now dealing with health issues.

Elwell said the positions at the district level are also going vacant.

"Six posts have closed in Maine this year," he said. Simmons said posts in Brunswick, Boothbay and Dresden have recently closed. "I'm saddened," said Elwell.

Simmons said he would place Memorial Day flags in Round Pond and sell poppies at the Yellowfront market. If a merger takes place, proceeds from poppy sales would go the Waldoboro post.

The post has also sponsored the Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen speaking events in local schools, collaborating with the Waldoboro post in those efforts.

Simmons said reports on community work need to be completed. There are also financial accounts to be reconciled. Post 8395 has $6000 in the bank, left from $14,000 after donations were made to local churches, a food pantry, the Wounded Warriors' Benefit Dance, the Community Housing Improvement Program Inc. and Healthy Kids.

"It's a tough decision," he said as he called for a vote. "I hate to bring it up. What's our vote? There's no quartermaster. We can't have a post without one." When he asked for a show of hands of those who want to close the post, none were raised.

"Who wants to merge with Waldoboro?" Elwell asked. "I'm going to vote that we do that. If we don't, the department will take the money."

Simmons said closing the post without merging would allow the state VFW department to take the Leuign W. Osier post's charter and assets.

"If we merge with Waldoboro the money and charter will go to Waldoboro," Simmons said.

Post 8395 donated the land for the New Harbor Fire Station and operates out of rooms there. When the station was built, it was agreed that the veterans would be able to use that space as long as it was a vital chapter.

"You're losing that right," Elwell said.

The vote to merge passed unanimously.

Simmons said he would write the letter to formally close the post. Members may choose where they will participate in the future. Once a member has made that choice, the national office will send them new cards indicating the post where they participate. Until that time, all members will continue to be considered members of the Leuign W. Osier Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.

Members also agreed to ask the fire department to continue to display a framed photograph and memorabilia of Leuign Osier's service and a painting of the raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima. Elwell said he would circulate an advertisement inviting veterans to look over the considerable collection of mementos held by the post, so that proper homes can be found for them.

Others present at the meeting were Rowland V. Gilbert, Jon Poland Sr. and Fred Hanna, all Navy veterans of the Vietnam War.

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