by Phyllis Walker
Smiles, words of gratitude and pleasure set the tone for the Santa Clarita Elks Barbecue Luncheon on February 25, 2017 at the Elks Lodge 2379 on Sierra Highway in Canyon Country, as veterans from the Sepulveda VA arrived for this yearly event. Each veteran in attendance was presented a red, white and blue knitted lei made by members of the Hart High School Key Club to signify their contribution to our country so we can remain “America, the Land of the Free.” The Antlers, a high school youth group from Van Nuys-Reseda Lodge were in attendance to show support for our veterans. The Lodge Boy Scout Troop 2379 served barbecued tri-tip, coleslaw, baked beans and delicious bread – all made from scratch by the Elks Barbeque Team for over 100 persons attending. Elks member and WWII Navy veteran, Dick Roelofs, provided music as he played the organ.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) was chartered in February 1868 — and with great spirit and direction — began to help veterans, disabled children, scouting, scholarships and more, wherever “Charity, Justice and Brotherly Love” were needed!
When World War I was raging in 1917, the Elks members helped the nation to victory by equipping two base hospitals for the sick and wounded on battlefields of France. In 1918, a Reconstruction Hospital in Boston was built and given to the federal government — the forerunner of today’s Veterans Administration Medical Centers. Elks provided rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans for disabled veterans; the federal government took over this activity, which became the genesis for the GI Bill.
A memorial building honoring those who served their country and gave their lives in the Great War (WWI) was dedicated in 1926 and it has been rededicated to honor all veterans — to include future conflicts. Located in Chicago, Illinois, the city granted the Elks Memorial “landmark” status. Elks members have continued to support morale by “Letters from Home” and care packages, as they support our troops in the war against terrorism and keeping our freedoms safe.
Each generation has experienced a war and associated atrocities since WWI with the gassings; WWII had mass executions and death marches; the Korean War experienced mass mutilations; Vietnam suffered from excessive prisoner torture and the health impact of agent orange; Desert Shield/Storm experienced difficulty in enemy distinction; and the Afghanistan/Iraq War — the longest in existence — continued issues of distinguishing enemies, IEDs and advanced warfare.
When asked “What is the best part of the event?” Korean Army veteran Kaz Shincaku said he “enjoyed talking with other GIs, the people in attendance, and being treated so well!” Fellow Vietnam Army veteran Bob Menard was delighted to see old friends, meet new friends and enjoyed everything — even though he was not an enthusiast of coleslaw, when it was mixed with the beans it became a culinary treat for him. Most impressive was a retired teacher who taught the youth in his classroom that “Freedom is not free; sacrifices of our armed forces keep us free.” Jason Monnier, a Marine veteran from the Persian Gulf War and assistant scoutmaster of Troop 2379, said he “enjoys the comradery of the event — especially the special bond between Boy Scouts and the Sepulveda Veterans.” Harold Walker, an Iraq War Army veteran, says he is “grateful for the sharing, comaraderie, fascinating stories and the food.”
Many Elks members are veterans and actively involved in the community to fulfill the Elks’ mission: “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.” This yearly event to honor veterans let them know we are grateful for their service and protecting our freedoms.
For more information about the Elks and their programs, contact Phyllis Walker at 661-251-1172 or visit, www.Elks.org.