Vets find connection at VFW posts

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Veterans Day was first set aside in 1918 (as Armistice Day) at the end of World War I and over time grew to recognize all of those who defended America in all wars. For a while, traffic used to stop at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the day of the WWI armistice – in a tribute to the dead. But somewhere over time, the day’s significance has changed. Corporate America quietly returned to its usual 9-to-5 business. Time clocks still got punched. And although banks, schools and government offices close, much of the country today keeps on working. “I guess it was more important years ago, when there were tons of veterans,” Johnson said. “But we’re all dying out now.” Still, 75-year-old Johnson finds that needed recognition and companionship inside the VFW walls. In fact, Johnson says he can walk into any VFW hall and know he’s in good company. They’re the places that he can go and be understood. CANYON COUNTRY – There were no parades welcoming Jim Abbatoye and his Army buddies when they returned home from the Vietnam War. Same for Eddie Johnson, a Marine who fought in the Korean War. But Abbatoye, Johnson and other regulars at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6110 and Post 6885 on Friday commemorated the friends they lost in battle with people who they say understand the most: other veterans. “To a veteran, every day is Veterans Day,” said Joe Domke, who was shot while serving in the Army in Vietnam. “People who have been there will understand what that means.” Abbatoye, 57, also finds that same connection inside these places. But he also finds an instant bond among those who fought in Vietnam. Whenever they first encounter another from Vietnam, they shake hands and say, “Welcome home.” “It’s like us saying the government didn’t want to welcome us home, so we’ll do it ourselves,” he said. A TV set plays in the corner above the bar at Post 6110, where the men sit and slowly sip beer. They talk about the news. They tease about their ages. They wonder where the women are. Sometimes women do come in, they said. But mainly the crowd is people like Johnson, Abbatoye and Domke. Men with beards and salt-and-pepper hair. Men with their military branches tattooed on their biceps. Men who remember and want to talk about it. The young guys, the men say, meaning those who fought in the Gulf War and those now in Iraq, don’t frequent these places. Yet. They’re busy looking for girls, said Abbatoye, who did the same when he came back from war. But when he got older, Abbatoye began thinking more about his days in the service. The past began weighing on his mind. That’s when he started coming to VFW posts. He suspects that today’s troops will slowly trickle into the posts over time. Others at the bar nodded their heads in agreement. “A lot of them might feel they want to talk to someone about it, and you can’t always talk to mom and dad,” Abbatoye said. “This will give them someone to talk to. Someone who’s been through it and knows.” Sue Doyle, (661) [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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