First AMVETS Post in Minnesota Celebrates 30 Years
This Saturday, they're throwing a party at the Mendota VFW to commemorate the anniversary.
The first Minnesota chapter of the American Veterans Association (AMVETS) will be hosting their 30th anniversary celebration this Saturday at the Vasatka-Goers WWII VFW Post #6690 in Mendota from 2 p.m.-11 p.m.
The party will include live music, a pig roast, games and, reportedly, a chance to soak a willing veteran in a dunk tank. The event is free and open to everyone.
The event is focused on celebrating the strength of what was once just an idea.
“I never expected to do anything out of the ordinary. You know, I just kind of thought I’d work at my job and go about my business and that would be it,” said veteran Dick Volkert.
Until, that is, a day in 1982 when, enroute from Detroit to St. Paul as an over-the-road truck driver, he happened to stop in for a drink at the Mendota VFW.
“While I was there, two fellows came in,” said Volkert. “They said they were going to be starting a veterans organization and asked if I wanted to be involved.”
Volkert served in the United States Air Force from 1956-1960. As a peacetime soldier he was not allowed to become a member of other veteran groups because many, like the Disabled American Veterans Group or American Legion, require specific hallmark experiences of their members.
The men he met that day explained that that was OK; he would still be a welcome member in this new group.
One thing led to another and, before he knew it, on July 17, 1982, exactly 22 years after Volkert was discharged from active service, the Mendota chapter of AMVETS was born. Volkert found himself commander of the new group.
AMVETS was founded nationally in 1947 to provide assistance in acquiring government funding and services for recently returned WWII veterans. Throughout the years the membership and missions have grown. Nationally the group includes more than 180,000 members, including an estimated 1,600 Minnesotan members, said Mike Cook, MN representative for the AMVETS National Executive Committee (NEC). Veterans from all time periods are welcome.
“Anybody with an honorable discharge can belong to our organization. We don’t discriminate. You can’t help it if, when you were enlisted, you didn’t go to war,” said Cook.
'Strictly a Fun Time'
Volkert led the group upon its inception and, though he admits he felt completely inadequate at the start, the group has grown to include 70-80 active members.
Last year alone, AMVETS donated over $1 million to charities throughout the region. This year, they’re anticipating upping that total to nearly $2 million.
The mission of the Mendota AMVETS still includes providing assistance to veterans in receiving government services, but in addition they also sponsor charitable gaming to support the VA Hospital and Veterans Home, provide financial assistance to family members of deployed service members, actively lobby to secure funding for current and former service members and take on other projects as they arise.
As Volkert said, “Support(ing) other veterans is just basically what we’re doing. If we can help them … we’re going to do it.”
Volkert has served the group in a variety of roles throughout the years and, just recently, was re-elected as charter commander for the 30th anniversary year.
As for the party, the vets are pumped.
“It’s going to be a celebration; you know that, don’t you? Everyone is invited. Strictly a fun time,” said Cook.