By By Jade Marceau–Mary
Saturday, April 29th, 2023, was the Day of Service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Mascoutah, IL. The event took place at the 7682 post located at 620 Donaphan Street. The occasion for this event was to collect food for the food pantry in Mascoutah and to educate veterans and others.
Jill Schofield, the elected post commander, and Bob Brostoski, the service officer at the VFW 7682 were there to help all veterans and their families learn about the benefits they were eligible for and to guide them through the process. Benefits are provided by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs branch. As Schofield and Brostoski explained, veterans can receive medical and burial benefits, but more benefits are available through the state and county. Those include fishing, hunting, or camping permit benefits, financial compensation, and more. Examples of reasons to be eligible for financial compensation include exposure to toxic air, burn pit, or agent orange while in service overseas. Many veterans have seen their requests for benefits denied, but recent changes in politics have allowed Congress to increase the VBA budget, allowing them to change their standard over the year and to give more chances for veterans to be eligible. The VFW guides those in need and helps them submit applications, but the post also stands as a space for all to meet and socialize. As a matter of fact, the Mascoutah VFW hosts weekly events such as Bingo, Poker, or Fish Fry. It is also a place where people can always come to drop off their flags so that they can retire with dignity. Last, the VFW frequently meets with Congress to make sure veterans’ needs are met and cared for. For more information, visit the VFW 7682 Monday to Thursday 5 pm – 11 pm, Friday from 5 pm to 2 am, or visit www.mascoutahvfw.org.
The Day of Service at the VFW welcomed another instructive display to visitors. Father & Son, David and Nick Wittenauer displayed historical military items from different foreign wars. David has been a collector of such items for about 30 years. His dad was a D-Day veteran, which pushed him to always be very intrigued by that part of History. “Veterans typically didn’t talk about things. So, I decided I wanted to find out what happened.” David said. For him, this collection is about honoring the veterans and the opportunity for people to “see what those men went through and how important it was for them to bring back things related to the valeur they had or that friends had.” As David explained, there is a lot of history to read through each item’s own. There are stories and life events, but also pride. Indeed, “some of them brought back some items and stuff just to prove to themselves or to their families, to prove it was real and that there were there for real,” said David. This display is now an opportunity for people outside the veterans’ family to see and understand “what it is to be asked to serve your country.” For his son Nick, this collection is about helping the younger generation see above the numbers and understand the importance and the meaning of such tragedies. To him, collecting those items is a service to remember what happens and leave an indelible mark on History. Those stories also give humanity to the owner, whatever side of the war they were on. “This [collection] is not to glorify, it is to remember,” Nick said. As David’s dad told him once, “The only difference between these [German] guys and me was we won, they lost. We are all going home.”