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Post Commander Kim Hutchison, a retired Air Force staff sergeant, speaks at the re-dedication. He said the mission of the Post is to assist combat veterans. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
Event held to thank members for their work remodeling the Post
ENTERPRISE — Is a group defined by its mission or the building in which it meets? Long before the Eagle Cap Post 4307 had its own structure in Enterprise, it had a mission and a vision and people who supported it.
Friday night, members of the Post and guests celebrated a re-dedication of the building constructed in 1976. Member James Elliott said to get to this point, “A lot of guys worked their tails off.”
The VFW met in a variety of places before they built their post. Sometimes, when things were tight, they met in a car with a case of beer, said Elliott.
Other venues included the IOOF Hall in Enterprise and for a while they shared a space with the American Legion. At one time the Post had 350 members.
Eventually the group, which has been around since the 1940’s, bought property at 800 N. River St. Elliot said they broke ground in 1975 and it was completed a year later.
The Post is used for more than just VFW functions. Everett Roberts, who served twice as Post Commander, said he taught hunter safety there.
Mike Kowalski, a relatively new member, toasted the time, effort and money that went into the remodel. “I’d like to recognize the folks who give a new blast of life to this place and worked so hard.” Lathrop Wineries named a cabernet sauvignon “Rededication.” Each, in attendance raised a glass in toast.
Two bottles of Rededication were auctioned off to support the Post’s programs.
Betty Beaudoin has had as much experience with the organization as almost anyone there that night. Her husband Bill served as Oregon’s Jr. Vice Commander for five years. The commitment was huge, Beaudoin said, and she knew that before he started the position. “When he went to the installation in Astoria I asked, ‘Send him back the way I sent him to you’”.
Beaudoin said the Post’s auxiliary is actively involved in the VFW Protection Insurance Plan, which eases the financial burden that can accompany a cancer diagnosis.
Post Commander Kim Hutchison, retired Air Force staff sergeant, said there is some young blood at the post and recognized Chris Diggins, senior vice commander and Friday night’s prime rib and chicken dinner’s head chef. Another young member is Kent Robbins, an Army Captain who served in Iraq and the post’s junior vice commander.
“I believe in this organization and what it stands for. We need the wisdom and experience from our longtime members,” said Hutchison.
Hutchison said the re-dedication was to thank the members for their work remodeling the Post. Dark paneling was taken off the walls, which were painted white. Drywall and insulation were installed, and dim lights were replaced with bright ones. A storage room was added and an accordion-style curtain was installed, dividing the dining room from a game room, complete with a pool table. The kitchen, an important function of the Post, was also remodeled.
Contractors that helped with the remodel worked for cost or reduced rates, said Hutchison, like Borgerding Construction and Enterprise Electric.
“One of the concerns of the older membership,” said Hutchison, “was that were erasing all of the work they had done here. We weren’t trying to do that, but make it more usable and reinforce that corporate history.”
The mission of the Post, said Hutchison, is to assist combat veterans. “Sometimes that’s a tank of gas,” he said.
One young man, off to war, didn’t get paid when he was supposed to, so the Post loaned his family the money until it was straightened out, said Hutchison. They also assist vets who need help wading through Veterans Affairs paperwork.
The Post sponsors the .22 rifle youth shoot at the Eagle Cap Shooting Range Sept. 21 and gives out three scholarships each year to graduating high school seniors with relatives in the service.
In recent years members of the VFW have been active in establishing the Fountain of Honor at the Wallowa County Courthouse.
Member Susan Roberts said the Post applied and received the grant for the Fountain, retains all the records and is responsible for its upkeep.
Hutchison said they are working to get seven new flag poles installed around the county including at the Wallowa Senior Center.
The VFW is best recognized for its involvement leading the county’s parades, veterans’ funerals, a variety of Memorial Day grave side ceremonies and a Veterans Day breakfast.
In October the Post will start up its Wednesday night taco dinner, open to the public.
Hutchison said, like many organizations, they struggle to recruit new, younger members, but sees a bright future.
“I would like to see the Post be the go-to place for people who want to go out for the evening for comradeship and friendship, shoot a game of pool, and have dinner,” he said.