One military, many memories
Veterans’ battles don’t always end with service to their country.
The American Legion Post 795 membership has dwindled over the last five years, raising the question of who will take over the leadership when the core group relinquishes the helm.
Membership of the South Lake Tahoe post has dropped to 113 veterans, down from the usual 250.
“New blood is what we need,” Post Cmdr. Curt Emrie said Sunday. “We’re losing more than we gain.”
Emrie, 61, cited the handful of those who move out of the area each year, along with the few who have died as reasons for the decline. He will turn over his one-year role next May.
In the meantime, membership drives are in the works.
So are fund-raisers.
The post’s challenges also include hard financial times. The leadership says it’s coming up short by at least $11,000.
The post’s late treasurer left taxes unpaid dating back to 1996. That has led to a near loss of its nonprofit status as well as intricate negotiations with California and the Internal Revenue Service. The post discovered the oversight and reported it to officials.
“We’re definitely in the crisis, just trying to keep our heads above water,” Emrie said.
The financial shortfall has placed the operation of the post in jeopardy, whether it involves the cutback of hours or even days.
“Basically, we have enough money now to run the post through December. After that, I don’t know,” said Emrie, who served in the Navy as an electronic technician between 1955 and 1959. He joined after graduating from high school in St. Louis.
As a form of outreach, Emrie plans to make today’s ceremony at 11 a.m. at the American Legion Post 795 at 2748 Lake Tahoe Blvd. more meaningful to veterans and supporters.
He will describe how the branches began and recite a definition of what a veteran is.
“You can’t tell by looking,” he said, choking up while listing the many who make up the armed forces.
“I think Veterans Day is for all veterans. If it weren’t for them, who would know what kind of country we’d have?” he said.
He hopes a new crop of veterans will take heed of this civilian calling and come forward to keep the organization fiscally sound.
But as the wars themselves have shown, a generation gap may hinder such a bridge between the ages and the experiences.
Chuck Newport, a 55-year-old Vietnam War veteran from the South Shore, said he hasn’t set foot in a VFW Hall since he returned to the United States in 1971.
Newport, who works in El Dorado County’s health department, believes attitudes toward the divisive conflict that claimed 58,000 American lives and the grand-scale World War II make for post-war experiences that are drastically different and worlds apart.
“World War II was a time of celebration and honor. There wasn’t any cheering and celebration when we got home,” Newport said Sunday.
In addition, the doubt about whether the U.S. should have been involved in Vietnam also spawned a generation of those who questioned the authority of the government in its greater wisdom.
“I wouldn’t suggest one has more losses than another,” he said. “But (WWII) was a just war versus one of ‘what are we doing there?'”
Newport need only reach as far as his family lineage to compare the two experiences.
His father, Charles Wesley Newport II, took part in the 1944 D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy.
Even though he served, the younger Newport at one point filed for conscientious objector status while he attended aviation electronics school because of the war’s politics. He was turned down.
Instead, he was forever changed by watching the loading of body bags while stationed near the end of his tour of duty at Vietnam’s Da Nang airport.
To heal, Newport finds he has ceremonies that are more private in nature. He plans to pull out an old scrapbook that encapsulates his life and times while in ‘Nam.
He passed on the mobile version of the Vietnam War Memorial, celebrating its 20-year anniversary.
“I didn’t want to go to the replica. I wanted to go to the real thing,” he said.
Newport visited the Washington, D.C., memorial, referred to as “The Wall,” about five years ago.
Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A flash flood watch has been extended for the Lake Tahoe area.