Do you remember Sidney Henderson? Or his brother Robert? (Me either.) How about Jimmy Coffin? Thurman Coffin? Buddy Blair? Isky Santos? Tony Yates? I’ll bet you do know Frannie Pease, Ed Buttner, Tony Mello, Manny and Denny Dias, and more of your neighbors and fellow Nantucketers, all members of VFW Post 8608.
Each of these mentioned, and so very many more, have one painful thing in common: All served us on foreign soil, in one or more branches of our military, some of them even served during more than one war.
Each of us in this community can claim some member of our extended family as a hero – a grandfather, a mother, a dad, brother, sister, cousin, or friend. Some gave a lot, some “…gave all, the last full measure.” Some are serving even today, at-war in lands we can’t even pronounce, never mind understand.
But yet, “We also serve, who sit and wait.” We wait for a ‘phone call, an email. We wait for their letters telling us that they have survived another day, another week. We still wait for many of our heroes to come home. We still wait for those who, long ago, vanished from our anxious contact. We continue to wait for those who are Missing in Action, or Prisoners of War. We are, indeed, a large, contiguous, sympathetic, grateful, hopeful Family.
Since 1946, the men and women who served on foreign soil have organized and met all over our Island. Through the efforts of many, the Sidney and Robert Henderson Post 8608 finally has a permanent home, a meeting place where all can gather, to reminisce, to console, to celebrate.
Perhaps you wonder why I am telling you something you probably already know. I am reminding you that we all gather, as a Community, as a Family, on so many occasions: Weddings, retirement parties, funerals, wakes, birthdays, baptisms and christenings, bar and bat mitzvahs, bridal and baby showers. During each of these milestones, we remember those who have gone before us, those who made our way of life possible. The ones who paved the way, through quiet service with generous hearts, that we might snatch a moment of carefree celebration with those we love.
Our VFW Post has constructed a beautiful building. The amazing thing (to me) is they did it with ALL of us in mind! They have worked, and struggled, and fundraised tirelessly. We, once again, will reap the rewards of their selflessness, only now it will be at home instead of in unfamiliar lands. In addition to an unparalleled on-island venue that can comfortably accommodate up to four hundred people, they have unselfishly provided the Town of Nantucket with a permanent Office for Veterans’ Affairs where our homecoming heroes can apply for their benefits, arrange for their loved ones’ security, and their survivors may submit forms for burial markers.
They are so close to what they consider “Optimum Ops.” They are short of their goal by $153,467. There are around 12,000 year-round Nantucketers we can put a name on. There are at least five or six thousand others who live here, but have had no reason to register themselves with the Town Clerk. On any given day during our summer season, there are 60,000 people here. Now, just think! If each of those who live here year-round, plus those who visit us, donated $2.00 each, our Post would surpass their goal, and be open for us faster than an Afghan camel can spit!
The number of wildly successful fundraising benefits, galas and festivals on this Island on an annual basis would put New York to shame. I am in high hopes that such grand gestures will be unnecessary for our servicemen and women.
There are so many ways you can help. The Post has a Wish List – almost like a bridal registry – of specific items they need to open their doors. Additionally, they would be grateful for donations in ANY amount. They are anxious to offer a place for you – their extended Nantucket Family – to gather for your significant observances, sharing your grief, or your joy.
A comprehensive website featuring the Post 8608 Wish List, a page to enter your pledge or donation, or to offer your words of encouragement may be accessed at http://www.vfwpost8608.org If you are a new Nantucketer, you may choose to make a gift in memory of a serviceman or woman you hold dear. At the website you will see the new building’s many amenities and the incredible opportunity available to all in our community for almost any observance or event. (And, think about planning your next “occasion” at the most friendly and affordable venue in The Land of the $10 Ice Cream Cone!) Any member of the Building Committee would be thrilled to hear from you: Bert Johnson, Jim Richard, Arnie Paterson, Pit Grimes, John McLaughlin, and Gordon Lumsden, all of whom are listed in local telephone books. Checks of any amount may be mailed to VFW Post 8608, PO Box 941, 02554.
In grateful appreciation for whatever you and yours can do,
Catherine Flanagan Stover descends from a long line of US Services veterans. She regards all veterans as the most venerable people we may be privileged to meet.