by Tim Bryce
Every now and then you run into a story that restores your faith in mankind. In today's world, we tend to be preoccupied by news of political backbiting, political correctness, lawlessness, and the lack of basic common courtesy.
However, I recently attended a re-dedication ceremony for AMVETS Post 98 in Holiday, Florida on Saturday, July 24th, which renewed my belief in honest friendship and community spirit.
The American Veterans (AMVETS) is a nonprofit organization founded by World War II vets and open to those in all branches of the military with an honorable discharge (DD214). AMVETS have provided assistance, jobs, and services to veterans and their communities for more than 70 years.
Like a lot of nonprofits, the AMVET Post in Holiday suffered due to the Covid-19 epidemic, forcing the Post to curtail their programs and close the building. During this time, they put on a new roof, replaced the flooring, and painted a mural across the front of the Post. Because of the renovations and as a sign they were back open for business, they re-dedicated the building. The Post was originally founded in 1998 and is led today by John "Jack" Gerry as Commander, a very personable leader for the organization. "What I found refreshing about the Post was the camaraderie of the members and their dedication to the needs of the local community. In addition to being patriotic and good citizens, I found them to possess a genuine respect for the human spirit. This explains their strong sense of fraternity and their willingness to help others. There also appeared to be a spirit of harmony and cooperation less the petty politics one normally finds in a nonprofit.
The Post helps fellow veterans with wheel chairs, scooters and other economic assistance, thereby providing a support network. For their community, they regularly support Gulfside Elementary in Holiday, Hud Workers, Toys for Tots, Operation Storefront, multiple food drives, and during the holidays they feed families and provide gift cards. Their sense of volunteerism is truly admirable. More groups should emulate them.
U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Florida's 12th District was on hand to help with the re-dedication and made it clear veterans are his top priority. Because of the close proximity of AMVETS to the American Legion Post 1731 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10167, all within a short walking distance of each other, Cong. Bilirakis wants to lead an effort to rename the street they are on, from "Bartelt Road" to "Heroes Way," which was met with great enthusiasm by those in attendance.
One of the highlights from the ceremony was the Post recognizing Mirinda Tanner of New Port Richey, the young artist who painted the mural on the front of the Post. "In the mural," she said, "I have included all of the branches of the military, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the new Space Force. I wanted to show this Post was a home for all Mirinda was presented a recognition certificate along with $500 for her college tuition by Lenny Piskac of the Post. In the audience was her beaming family who was rightfully proud of her.
The Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, James S. "Hammer" Hartsell, was also on hand to present a challenge coin to Korean War Veteran Jack Westlake for his many years of service. During his comments, he mentioned there are currently more than 1.5M veterans in Florida.
Following the official ceremony, the Post was open for food and dance. As an outsider, I found the friendship and community spirit most rewarding, and something we rarely see anymore. This is why I recommend membership in such nonprofits, to enjoy camaraderie and better their communities, if not at AMVETS 98, then elsewhere perhaps. The point is, if we want to promote moral values, now is the time to lead by example.
AMVETS Post 98 is located at:
4629 Bartelt Road,
Holiday, FL 34690.
Again, it is open to all honorably discharged veterans of all branches of the military, including the National Guard. For information, Contact Debra Brooker,
the Post's 1st Vice Commander at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or stop by the Post to pick up an application.