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Altoona VFW Post 10405

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The Red Caboose Page
Chapter Ten
Altoona VFW Post 10405
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VFW Post 10405
1419 Lynn Avenue Altoona, Wisconsin
By John R. Thurston
Note the flagpole in the above photo.
There is a plaque at the base that reads as follows:
“In memory of
U. S. Marine Corps
Born - Oct. 26, 1948
Died - Dec. 2, 1968
Altoona Graduate of 1966.
Donated by an anonymous Ex-Marine formerly of Altoona.
ll the members of Altoona's VFW Post 10405 have served their
country in time of war as soldiers, sailors, marines, or members of
the Coast Guard. Although the various branches differ in experiences and
demands, there is something important that all these servicemen have in
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common. It is wartime service. This sets them apart from others, the
people who haven't "been there." Those who haven't experienced the
anxiety and stress of war can't really know what it was like.
It was this common bond of service that caused Altoona servicemen to
band together in 1974 to establish VFW Post 10405. The Post provided a
place where they could get together, socialize, and enjoy the comradery
of a “band of brothers.
Aside from providing a meeting place, there was another very important
purpose for their banding together. As VFW members, they have almost
a sacred obligation to initiate and support programs to honor and assist
all others who have served in the country‘s armed forces.
In the past, in the lulls between our many wars, servicemen have been
too easily forgotten. Without constant reminders by organizations such
as the VFW, it’s as though these warriors never served and the wartime
events never happened. Servicemen should be accorded “Veterans
Propers” throughout the course of their lives. “Propers,” a term
originating in urban ghettos, can be used to express a veteran’s right, i.e.
veterans should routinely accorded special respect, deference, and
assistance by a grateful nation and its citizenry. {The Memorial Day
(May 24, 2009) speech that follows in this section describes both the
comradery of servicemen as well as some of these “propers” and how
they may be bestowed.} Perhaps a unique expression such as “Veterans
Propers” should be used as the term that routinely defines and draws
attention to the Nation’s special obligations to its servicemen. In
addition, VFW Post 10405 is an important community asset, an
organization that takes pride in Altoona and serves its citizens in a great
many ways.
The following material was gleaned from the informal records kept by
the VFW Post 10405 Historian. It tells a tiny bit about this Post and
some of its history. With minimal editing, these tidbits are submitted for
general information.
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New V.F.W. Post
Art Schultz, Ninth District V.F.W. Commander, recently installed
officers of the newly instituted Post 10405 at Altoona.
From left are Schultz, Harvey Johnson – Commander; and Keith
Grilley – Quartermaster; and Thomas Griese – Senior vice-
Other officers are Donald Foss, Junior vice-commander; Aloysius Rohn.–
Chaplain; Newell Pettis, Dean Olson and Dennis Meyer Trustees; Norm
Gutsch Surgeon; Doug Johnson – Officer of the day and Jerome McDonald
– Adjutant.
The post has over 50 members.
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Harvey Johnson served as its First Commander with Tom Griese, the
Vice Commander; Keith Grilley, the Quartermaster; and Jim Crandall,
the Adjutant.
The first Post Flag was donated by Ms. Lois Crandall in honor of her
deceased husband, Robert J. Crandall.
The Altoona Post’s Life Member Club was formed at the very
beginning. Charter members were Harvey Johnson, Tom Griese, John
Brown, Vance Larson, Albert Radcliffe, Anthony Wagner, Rodger
Thompson, Percy Hugdahl, and Art Hagmann.
The Post had no clubhouse initially. The first meeting took place in the
small, old café of the 400 Club. The group also met at the Golden Spike
tavern. For three years, the meetings took place in the Altoona Bank. In
addition, meetings were held for about a year in the basement of
Altoona’s St. Mary’s Church and after that, in the new St. Mary’s Civic
Center. By then, the group had grown from 38 members to 107.
The Post notes indicate that in 1974, Jerald Steinberg became the first
member of the Post to die.
An anonymous VFW member wrote “We had one member, now
deceased who was a member of World War I and II – he being Robert
Curtis. He was one of the most interesting and finest men I have ever
Over the years, the VFW Post has been very involved in local civic
affairs. It is important that the Post “gives back something” to the
Altoona community for its continuing support. Early on, it sponsored
such educational events as “Safety Poster Contests.”
Jim Crandall was born in Menomonie, Wisconsin on December 5, 1946
and he married Sharon Kummer on May 9, 1970. From this union came
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two daughters, Angela and Paulette. He served in the Army from
September 1966 to September 1968 -- a decorated veteran of the Viet
Nam War. His past and present activities include the Altoona Recreation
Committee, Altoona Little League, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Council
and the Altoona VFW Post number 10405.
Additional undated items: “The Bar is open every Friday night. Rick
Hoffman is the bartender. We have karaoke every Friday night. Jim
Crandall runs the Deer Hunters Ball which is one of the main fund-
raisers. Jim also runs ‘Spring Flings’ and ‘Indoor Fishing.’”
Other undated items: “Breakfast held 2
Sunday of the month. Going to
try 4
Sunday.” There was a need for the money that was to be
generated. “We have two local
relief funds. We have bills to pay and a
mortgage. We usually spend more money that we make.”
“April 27, 1989, Jim Crandall and Lowell Odegard Try to get Amish to
tear down the building for materials. Put on lots of miles. Ode walked
way in the field. Stopped carriage.April 28, 1989. “Amish call Jim
Crandell at 7:30 a.m. Amish come into Altoona and looked at building.
Met with Ode.” April 29, 1989 “Jim and Ode talk with Eli Miller. 4 men
would tear down and put in dumpster for $1000.” April 30, 1989 “Called
Bob Devney about bulldozing the building.” May 1, 1989 “Called
private party. He thought I was nuts.”
May 6, 1989. On this date, a familiar Altoona landmark, the old
Looby’s Meat Market at 1419 Lynn Avenue was bulldozed by Devney to
make way for a new VFW clubhouse. The resulting rubble was trucked
away to a dumpsite on Hemingway’s land. Don Everson, Ralph Ely, Carl
Johnson, and Arnie Longen were among the interested onlookers.
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Looby’s Meat Market
Demolition 1
Demolition 2
The New Club House
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After the new building was constructed, the VFW held their regular
meetings there. In addition, it was made it available to the general
public. Early on, Lions’ meals were served. It could be rented for
birthdays, weddings, showers, anniversaries, retirement parties, and
dinners. These events were booked throughout the year. In addition, the
building was made available at no charge for meetings of the Booster
Club, Little League, Lions, Hockey Club, and Altoona Recreation.
Flags have long been important to our nation as symbols of love of
country and reminders of those who have served. Some of the history of
Post 10406 can be told by its displaying and honoring our flag. At one
time, they installed an “Avenue of Flags” on Spooner Avenue. Also,
they provided and installed the flag that is permanently displayed at the
Cinder City Park (Photos on next page).
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Altoona VFW Post 10405 – In remembrance of those who served. 1978
VFW Flag and Plaque at Cinder City Park – Jim Crandall, Dan Johnson and Ralph Ely
VFW Avenue of Flags on Spooner Avenue
Altoona, Wisconsin – 1987
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Altoona VFW Post 10405 Officers
Commander: Alan Olkives
Sr. Vice Commander: Lowell Odegard
Jr. Vice Commander: Terry Carr
Quartermaster: Ralph Ely
Chaplain: Tim Sexton
Judge Advocate: Robert Pierce
Surgeon: Harvey Wick
Officer of the Day: Reuben Valencia
Three yr. Trustee: David Winkler
Two yr. Trustee: Glenn Felix
Adjutant: David Winkler
Asst. Quartermaster: Tom Burgmeier
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Altoona VFW Ladies Auxiliary
The Altoona VFW Ladies Auxiliary was instituted August 3rd, 2003 at VFW Post 10405
– 1419 Lynn Avenue, Altoona, WI.
Department President, Shirley Anderson performed the institution with the aide of
Department Chief of Staff, Rusty Garbacz and organizer Carolyn Olkives as conductress. The
Department VFW Commander, Al Kochenderfer spoke and welcomed the ladies to the new
Altoona VFW Auxiliary.
Charter Members: Linda Anderson, Marci Biermann, Paulette Brown, Mildred
Brugmeier, Caroline Connor, Lynne Connor, Sharon Crandall, Mary Ann Cullen, Judith
Davenport, Angela Dehnke, Barbara Duszynski, Helen Ely, Marlene Felix, Fiona Garcia, Rita
Garcia Rindahl, Bea Hancock, Genevieve Jensen, Sharon Leppert, Kathi Michelson, Carolyn
Olkives, Colleen Pierce, Paula Podwys, Ashley Rindahl, April Roberts, Tamera Smeltzer, Linda
Sunde, Susan Talbitz, Faith Thompson, Kathy Grant.
The Traveling Vietnam Wall was brought to Eau Claire September 24-28th, 2003 by the
Altoona VFW Post and the ladies were called to help in their first large project. We also joined
in on the Buddy Poppy Promotion for Veterans Relief in the same year.
The current officers are President’ Colleen Pierce; Sr. Vice Pres., Marlene Felix; Jr. Vice
Pres., Patti Brott; Secretary, Carolyn Olkives; Treasurer, Sharon Leppert; Chaplain, Barbara
Duszynski; Conductress, Barbara Stobb and Bea Hancock, ; Guard Deborah Carr; Trustees,
Barbara Duszynski, Marlene Felix and Tamera Smeltzer; Historian, Ann Kosmosky.
The Ladies Auxiliary has several projects; Veterans & Family Support, Americanism,
Buddy Poppy – (Veterans Relief), Cancer Aide & Research, Community Service, Emergency &
Disaster, Hospital, Junior Girls, Legislation/ Political Action, Membership, Patriot’s Pen (Middle
School Competition), Scholarships, Voice of Democracy (High School Competition), and Youth
See Photo Next Page.
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Back row: Left to Right
Bea Hancock; Asst. Conductress
Barbara Duszynski, Chaplain & 1st Trustee
Carolyn Olkives, Secretary
Sharon Leppert, Treasurer
Patti Brott, 9th Dist. Auxiliary President & Altoona's Jr. Vice President
Front row: Left to Right
Colleen Pierce, AUX President
Marlene Felix, Sr. Vice President & 2nd Trustee
Barbara Stobb, Conductress
Deb Carr, Guard
Tamera Smeltzer, 3rd Trustee
Ann Kosmosky, Historian
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Breakfasts at Altoona's VFW Post 10405
An “All You Can Eat” Event
1409 Lynn Avenue, Altoona, Wisconsin 54701
9 a.m.-12 noon.
The second Sunday of every month
Currently, $7.00 for adults; $4.00 for children (4-10)
One of Altoona's more important traditions takes the form of a monthly
breakfast provided by VFW Post 10405. Alan Olkives, James Crandall,
Lowell Odegard, Thomas Burgmeier, and Les Zimmerman established
this event which first took place on May 1, 2007 and continues to this day.
While this monthly breakfast raises funds in support of the Altoona VFW
Post, it has become a regular event for the substantial numbers of
Altoona residents, servicemen and others alike. People enjoy the warm,
friendly atmosphere while being treated to a wondrous meal.
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It's a full breakfast; one may go back for as many re-fills as he or
she wishes. The breakfast provides a wide assortment of delicious,
tastefully presented foods including blueberry and regular
pancakes, bacon, eggs (scrambled, or fried), sausage links, biscuits
and gravy, cereal, toast, orange juice, coffee and milk.
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The Post has come to rely upon Alan and Carolyn Olkives,
Thomas Burgmeier, James Crandall, Jim Gordon, Les
Zimmerman, Lowell Odegard and Terry Carr as the “Chief cooks
and bottle washers” who provide this excellent bill of fare. Jim
Crandall is really the Chief Cook. Over the years, Ron Black,
Merlin Kosmosky and Harvey Wick have helped out as well.
Tom Burgmeier
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Terry Carr, Les Zimmerman and Jim Crandall
Jim Gordon
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Although a fair share of the attendees at these breakfasts are
veterans and their family members, others in the community are
more than welcome to come in and enjoy the fellowship. Everyone,
young and old, may walk in, eat, and walk out or linger to "shoot
the breeze" with others in a leisurely fashion as in the days of old.
The topics might include inconsequential chit-chat, sports events,
the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre, war stories, local gossip, or the
affairs of the nation and the world.
Come join the folks for a breakfast at VFW Post 10405. You'll be
more than likely to make it a habit.
John R. Thurston (08.29.09)
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"Leave none of them behind"
Memorial Day Address: 1:15 p.m., Sunday, May 24, 2009
Bruce Valley Church, Strum, Wisconsin
John R. Thurston
I have chosen to entitle this address "Leave none of them behind." This
expression and the tradition it represents were born on the battlefields of
old. Soldiers felt an intense sense of oneness with their fallen comrades.
Recovering their bodies was an obligation. None of their comrades were
ever to be abandoned; none of them was ever to be left behind.
The tradition continues to this day. In addition, it should become a metaphor
for the respect and obligation that our society, you and I, must hold for all of
our veterans, both living and dead. We must never forget them. We must
"leave none of them behind."
I 'm a World War II veteran who spent two very long years of my life frozen
and seasick on the weather-deck of a wildly-gyrating destroyer in the frigid
waters off Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Our navy task force of three cruisers
and nine destroyers would periodically cross the northern Pacific to destroy
military installations on the northernmost islands of Japan. That was my
special Hell. Every warrior has his own individual Hell. All things
considered, mine was a lot softer than many others.
During World War II, I, and virtually all Americans, were deeply and
personally involved in the war effort that lasted nearly four years. Since
then, our wars have become increasingly depersonalized and more drawn
out. They have been fought by a relatively few servicemen. But there is
nothing impersonal to the servicemen who were fighting and dying in them.
They and their families pay a very high price for our protection. There is a
strange "disconnect" in this matter as most of us continue to live our lives
pretty much as usual. While it hasn't been intentional, we have come to
leave the heavy-lifting of war and the dying to a few others.
Our society allows us to keep our dead out of our consciousness and
consciences in a variety of ways. For example, under the Bush
administration, no one could photograph or videotape the dead bodies being
lifted from the planes that brought them back from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now, grieving families have options and are able to make the final decisions
about the circumstances surrounding their beloved one's homecoming.
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Few take time to consider fully the death of a serviceman and its impact
upon his family. If asked about this, people might say that they are too busy.
To them, Memorial Day means Memorial Day Sales or it's a day when no
mail is delivered. These sales are a desecration, a dancing on the grave of
our fallen servicemen.
Too often, historians emphasize the dates of battles and the large numbers of
dead and wounded. The individual warrior is lost in this shuffle. He or she
becomes a mere statistic, one amongst many. The deaths in our current wars
are now between 4 and 5 thousand.
On this day—and all days, let us remember that these 4000 plus servicemen
were individuals, —to paraphrase a World I poem—that each arose on the
day of their death, probably appreciating the wonder of the dawn, that each
of them had loved and were loved, and that each bled as they fell in our
To the extent that we fail to remember our dead as individuals, to that
extent, we dishonor them: we have "left them behind."
I'll now talk about WWI for a moment. What do you know about that war of
long ago? Could you name even one of its battles? If you can't, you are not
The death of one soldier in WW I, Ross McCluskey, continues to loom very
large in my life. For a few special moments in 1991,1 knelt beside the cross
that identified his grave in the large and beautiful American Meuse-Argonne
Military Cemetery in France. He had fought and died in the quagmire of a
battlefield around Ypers about a month before the 1918 Armistice brought
an end to that war. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Although I bear his name, Ross, I never knew him. But I knew his mother,
my grandmother. I also knew that her life ended in many ways upon the
notification of his death. A medal, some pictures, and memories were all
that she had left of him. His death and the resulting void remain deeply
personal to me. I think of Ross, my grandmother, and her family on
Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and on other occasions in between. Every
fallen serviceman deserves some such personal remembrance.
Our servicemen must never be far from our thoughts and our deeds.
Memorial Day is dedicated to all the servicemen who have died in our
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wars. You are honoring them here today with your attendance at this
We should continue our search for those veterans who are still listed as
"Missing In Action," locating their remains and consigning them to a proper
and respectful burial on site or returning them home for this purpose.
Some of our citizenry have chosen to honored our fallen heroes by erecting
monuments and building museums.
Some confine their expression of "Remembrance and Respect" to Memorial
Day or Veterans Day, pausing for a moment of silence and contemplation,
perhaps as they listen to "Taps."
Others routinely display flags, bumper stickers, or lapel pins on all those
many days that are not special occasions.
Still others may seek out a serviceman or veteran, shake his hand, and
thank him for what he has done for them.
Others may listen compassionately —and sometimes at length—to a
serviceman if he feels the need to talk.
Or they might, in the course of casual conversation, ask a family member
about their serviceman and what he or she is doing, how things are going.
Individuals or communities may extend help to that family if it is
encountering special problems.
Some include our warriors in their prayers.
"Remembrance and Respect" should take other forms. We must become
personally involved in national decision-making. Our military forces must
be sent into battle only when their mission is clear; its justification must be
open, honest, and compelling.
Americans must make sure that our Congress continues to enact legislation
that will benefit our warriors. They and their families might be easily
forgotten and ignored. Every year, we must pressure our Congressmen to
do whatever is necessary to provide servicemen and their families with
anything and everything they need —hospitalization, rehabilitation,
counseling, financial support, whatever. Servicemen have always been there
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for us. We must always be there for them.
Let each of us adopt a firm resolve as of this day. We must personally
support our servicemen and their families in every way possible. Mere
words are insufficient.
It is only by our deeds that our warriors may come to believe that America
will always respect and remember them, that all of us Americans are one
with them, that we will "leave none of them behind.**
Optional ending which may or may not be presented in place of or after the
closing paragraph above.
I'll close with a short, classic poem written by a Canadian Colonel, John
McRae, during WW I. It speaks for the dead who are buried in a tiny
military cemetery in Belgium called Flanders Fields.
*In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived,
felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved, and
were loved, and now we lie In Flanders
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
John R. Thurston
3752 Cummings Street
Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54701
(715.832.0034) E-mail:
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