Veterans serve others on Veterans Day

Published 10:12 pm Monday, November 12, 2012

From left, retired veterans Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Clarence Lee, Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Lassiter, Army Sgt. 1st Class William Wright, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Seabee James Robinson Jr. and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Max Jenkins display military memorabilia at the Disabled American Veterans open house on Monday.

Veterans Day was a time to recognize those who have served, but the members of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 5 spent it like all other days — still serving others.

The chapter held an open house Monday at its South Saratoga Street headquarters and served refreshments for the public. A display of old uniforms and other memorabilia from all branches of the service was on show to educate members of the public.

“It’s a tribute we do for our fallen comrades,” Commander Clarence Lee said.

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“We’re trying to make this an annual affair to bring more publicity,” added Senior Vice Commander Max Jenkins. “We’re trying to introduce ourselves to the public.”

The DAV’s official mission is to help fellow veterans get the benefits they earned. But Chapter 5 goes beyond helping just veterans to serving the community at large, Lee said.

The chapter serves a free lunch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday around noon. All are invited to come, whether a veteran or not.

“They fight over who’s doing to do the cooking,” Lee said of his service-minded comrades.

Both Lee and Jenkins served in Vietnam during the conflict there. They reminisced during Monday’s open house about how Vietnam veterans get more respect now than they did then.

“When I first returned from Vietnam, you couldn’t even wear your uniform,” said Lee, who served in the Air Force. “It’s gotten better now because of the positive publicity that’s been given to veterans.”

Lee said he now gets thanks from folks in public when he wears his Vietnam veteran hat.

“Before, that didn’t happen,” he said.

Jenkins, a Marine Corps veteran, said many military members who served during the Vietnam War didn’t realize the controversy that was happening back home until they returned from a tour.

“People in the service, we didn’t complain about it,” said Jenkins, who received the Purple Heart in Vietnam. “It was not up to the servicemen to discuss how popular it was. It was our job.”

Jenkins reflected that the military was good to him, helping him rise out of poverty. After retiring at the end of 20 years of service, he worked in the shipyard, in construction and in the civil service.

“When I went military, I had never had a better way of life,” he said. “It was nice for me.”

Jenkins said he hoped more veterans would become involved in the DAV, even if it’s only to request help.

“A lot of veterans, they don’t know we’re here,” he said.