by Vicki Wood
Newly installed Post Commander Brian Behm welcomed visitors to a Veterans Resource Fair Saturday April 24 at the Gravois Mills/Eldon VFW Post 5178 in Gravois Mills.
The Veterans Resource Fair was open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and breakfast and lunch, prepared by post members, was served to attendees.
Vendors and representatives from all over the state showcased their products and services that benefit veterans and their families of all branches of the military.
“We are seeking to change the face of today’s VFW. We would like to see younger vets come join us and that’s a challenge,” stated Department of Veterans Affairs MVC Technician Lloyd Adams of Columbia. “That’s what I hear from young veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, the VFW is not progressing. The American Legion is [progressing], they are bringing in Xbox systems and decreasing bingo and dances. We have to update with the times if we want to retain younger vets with activities that interest them.”
Versailles veteran and VA Advocate Stephanie Roberson agrees about the need for an update but wants to keep the bingo. “I enjoy the bingo. What’s wrong with bingo?” Roberson is a younger veteran. Adams says he thinks bingo will stay but that the younger veterans in his post prefer to play video games. Many of his post members are college students. “We go from 100 members to 500 overnight when University of Missouri, Columbia College, and Stephens College classes start their sessions.
Brian Behm was too busy running the event Saturday, but his mother, Maria Behm, a professional singer and Fleet Reserve Association Vice President for the North Central Region, opened the ceremony Saturday morning singing the National Anthem, and then spoke about her son’s leadership direction with the newly merged George Waddell Gravois/Eldon Post 5178.
“Brian is passionate about taking the post in a new direction. Karaoke on Saturday nights with hamburgers has been a big hit. Younger and older vets enjoy it. The merger with the Eldon post is exciting,” Maria Behm shared.
Brian Behm is only 42 years old and puts a lot of work into changing the George Waddell post but retaining and recruiting older veterans as well, especially Vietnam veterans. He is a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Iraq. Behm states “I am honored to be post commander. It’s all about the membership. We have a motto in the military; LDRSHIP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage which still applies everyday.”
Isom Folsom, Keith Loethen, and David Dunn were other post members diligently working to make the Veteran’s Resource Fair a success.
There was a mix of all ages in attendance Saturday, drawing large crowds around lunchtime.
Vendors offered services available to veterans of all eras ranging from education benefits with State Fair Community College at Sedalia and Whiteman Air Force Base at Knob Noster to Central Missouri Honor Flight and a no-cost captioning service for those with hearing loss.
Versailles resident Kay Calton is an army veteran and State Family Program Director with the Family and Warrior Support Division of the Missouri National Guard in Jefferson City. She and veteran volunteers Antoinette Clark and Carla Caldwell provided “bags of swag” including boxes of Girl Scout cookies to veterans while informing them of the benefits available for families of service members.
The George Waddell Post 5178 has karaoke which is open to the public 7 to 11 p.m. with hamburgers and a cash bar Saturdays. They conduct the post’s monthly business meeting 7 p.m. the first Monday of the month. The post is located at 115 Troutdale Drive in Gravois Mills.