KSLA Salutes: A sense of community in a global pandemic

KSLA Salutes: Veterans providing Thanksgiving for others
KSLA Salutes: Veterans providing Thanksgiving for others
Updated: Nov. 26, 2020 at 10:36 PM CST
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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - Ron Delaney has been VFW Post 4588 Commander since 2015.

“With a lot of the veterans, we are dealing with aging members,” Delaney said. “I have one WWII veteran who is 95. He and his wife don’t come around much due to COVID-19. We also have Korean, Vietnam War veterans, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. But a majority of the veterans are from the Vietnam era.”

Since March, not many veterans have been able to come to the Bossier City VFW due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We just got to try and do what we can to keep them safe,” Delaney said. “When you come in the front door there is a sign that lists symptoms, we check your temperature. If you have any symptoms, please don’t come in here.”

Delaney says one of the biggest things the people miss is the Saturday night dancing.

“Normally it’s every single Saturday night,” Delaney said. “Live music and everything. There is a very dedicated crowd that comes out here 52 Saturdays and New Year’s Eve and that’s not happening now. We haven’t had a dance in here since the first Saturday in March. It’s been really hard for a lot of folks who have been coming every weekend for decades.”

Delaney says many are missing that sense of community, so for Thanksgiving this year, they are holding a meal for a small group of veterans and their families.

“I’m expecting maybe 50,” Delaney said. “I’m cooking five turkeys. We will be delivering meals to our older veterans that cannot come out. For everything left over, we will be taking it to Woody’s Home for Veterans in Shreveport.”

Delaney spent 21 years active duty in the Air Force. He says it’s about maintaining veterans’ legacies, especially those who served before him.

“It’s all about helping the veterans,” Delaney said. “Especially the older ones. They were here before me. I’m trying to keep their legacy going. I’m also looking at the new generation of veterans coming up and trying to get them involved.”

Delany, an advocate for mental health, says it’s important to give veterans a sense of community when they return from serving the country because many people don’t understand what they have been through.

Through events like VetFest in Bossier City, he says reaching out is the first step if someone needs help with anything.

“On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day,” Delaney said. “We wanted to bring vendors in and counselors in, a job far, music and food trucks. It was all outside. We ended up raising close to $15,000 for an organization in Dallas called 22KILL. The man that started it is Jacob Schick. He’s a third generation Marine and years ago was caught by a roadside bomb at the beginning of his deployment. He’s lost part of one leg and has has several surgeries. Instead of crawling in a hole he decided to do something positive and created this organization.”

Watch KSLA News 12′s interview with Schick here.

Delaney says they are planning another VetFest for May 2021.

“The VFW is there to help veterans,” Delaney said. “If you have demons, aren’t able to get a job or keep a job or you don’t feel whole. Hopefully at events like VetFest we can help our fellow veterans out. We can’t do everything, but we can try to make it better. We are here to help veterans. A lot of times, when you get out of the military and get into the civilian world, you don’t have that comradery like you do in the military.”

COVID-19 has changed the way we all live; Delaney says it’s definitely changed their sense of community, but they are trying to adapt and overcome it.

“Up at Fort Humbug, the 2nd 108 deployed,” Delaney said. “We packed 250 grab bags with a bottle of water, bottle of Gatorade, two fresh fruits, a snack bar and a Dum Dum along with words of thanks, praise, encouragement. We handed it to them as they left. Not all the grab bags were used. We took those down to the VA Vets Center.”

At the Post in Bossier City, instead of a bar, they created a coffee area for vets to gather every other Sunday.

“It’s a chance for people to come together,” Delaney said. “We started doing that in October. You do not have to be a member of the post to come. We do it from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.”

Delaney has been the Commander over VFW Post 4588 for the last few years, but is also involved at the district and state level. He is the State Surgeon and says he has been following news of a possible COVID vaccine.

“I am the liaison between the three VA hospitals and the VFW,” Delaney said. “The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs has five homes and I am also the liaison between them and the VFW. So I traveled this last week to see all three hospitals.

We are working on it, but like with everything else, it will take time. In the meantime, we have to stay safe. When and if this is over, we can all come back out here and burn up the dance floor.”

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