In just a few short months, the Young Guns from VFW Post 1115 have started to develop a national following.
Since the group formed in January, posts from all around the nation have conferred with the Hillsville group about how to start their own committee of Post-Vietnam War era veterans. The Young Guns got together recently to honor the many individuals who have made the quick rise possible during the Young Guns Appreciation Day.
“We started with young veterans, trying to get them involved with the post and trying to get them involved in our community and let them know there is somewhere they can call home,” said Young Guns President Mike Lara. “What we have done, what we have become is because of everyone sitting in this room. You have all helped in your own way.”
Lara then called the new VFW Post 1115 Commander Jack Easter to the podium. Easter then gave a cap as a token of appreciation to Howard Minton, the post’s past Commander from 2012-15. He also recognized three members of the Young Guns Committee who were recently elected to office in for the entire VFW post – Quartermaster Gary Adams, who took over for the late Jimmy Williams after his recent passing; Lara, the new Junior Vice Commander; and new Senior Vice Commander Marty Rivera.
“That’s our troop for 2015-16 that is going to be carrying the weight of the entire post and I am delighted to have every one of them,” Easter said. “They have earned it and they are going to go forward with a lot of vigor. That is what we need here.”
Lara then thanked all of the Young Guns’ members wives, presenting each one with a rose. Recognized were Lorrie Graybeal, Wendy Rivera, Patty Baskett, Tammy Adams, Deborah Underwood, Cassie Barnes, and the Commanders’ wives, Donna Minton and Sheila Easter.
“Without you ladies, we would all be lost and every man here can testify to that. These ladies have dealt with our phone calls, our hour-long conversations, text messages, and emails,” Lara said. “They have been our secretaries, designers, our workforce at all of our events, they have dealt with us calling each other constantly, so we would like to say thank you.”
The same thing goes for the Young Guns’ children, Lara said, noting they have cooked, helped set up for events, served hot dogs in extreme cold, and all other sorts of things. All girls were given a rose and all guys were given a certificate of certification. Children honored were Doug Barnes’ son Jeffrey Willburn; Earl Baskett’s children – Echo Baskett, Timmy Baskett, Andrea Bryant; and Marty Rivera’s children – Elizabeth Rivera, Brianna Rivera and Joey Rivera.
Lara also talked about how much past Commander Howard Minton meant. He has served as a supporter, mentor and sounding board.
“When we first started the Young Guns, Mike suggested we start something to help our post try to get some younger vets in there. And in the midst of the meeting, Howard said, ‘Okay, it’s done, let’s get it going,’” Rivera added. “If it wasn’t for Howard making that decision, we wouldn’t be here.”
Easter has been a sounding board for Lara and he has been a big advocate of the Young Guns. Another strong supporter of the Young Guns was the late Jimmy Williams before he passed away earlier this year.
“This story touched me more than anything I have ever experienced. I got a call asking if we wanted our shirts made, go to Embroideryville. So I got off work and I hauled tail to Galax,” Lara said. “I came up with the shirt design and Jimmy said, ‘Get him what he wants.’ That meant more to me than anything. Jimmy always fought for us so we would like to honor Jimmy Williams’s wife.”
At that point, Vatress Williams came to meet members of the Young Guns for an emotional embrace that was met with lots of tears and applause. Lara also recognized Susan Anderson from Embroideryville.
Lara then recognized Rick Raskin for putting an article about the Young Guns in the national VFW Magazine and the Virginia Veteran.
“With this article being run in such high-profile magazines, we have reached levels like no one would believe. We have people calling us from all over the country wanting to start a Young Guns Committee,” Lara said. “I don’t really have the words, but Rick Raskin is the man. He took our article and ran with it, so we would like to say thank you.”
“Awesome,” Raskin replied. “I have four words. Future of the VFW. That is what it’s about. These guys are awesome and they are the ones that deserve the applause.”
Lara then recognized what he called the VIP guest of the day. He is not only humble, Lara said, but a strong advocate of the Young Guns in introducing Allen Worrell.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well Allen Worrell has proven that wrong. He is the man with the golden pen,” Lara said. “He called me and we did an interview over the phone and he put an article in The Carroll News. This article has made its way from a small town in Virginia to big cities across the nation. He has been at every event we have done, taken pictures, done articles, whatever we need, he has been there. He will tell you he didn’t do anything, but he did. Without him, this would have never went as fast or as far as it did. Without his words, none of this would be possible. So Allen, it is with big honor, the Young Guns committee names you the Official Press Reporter for the Young Guns Committee.”
Lara presented Worrell with a shadow box handmade by the members of the Young Guns that included a Young Guns shirt and the VFW Magazine signed by all members of the committee. The group also presented Worrell with a hat with “Press” written on the back.
“I think what these guys are doing is just super cool. They are an amazing group of young guys. And I just think this is kind of messed up that they are honoring me. It should be the other way around because I have not done anything,” Worrell said. “All I have done is do my job and write a couple of articles. But if it weren’t for you guys, and if it weren’t for the guys that come before you, Mr. Easter and Mr. Minton, and all those fellows, I wouldn’t even have this job. You are the ones that gave me the freedom of the press. You are the ones that gave us all the freedoms we have, and for you to be honoring me, it should be the other way around. You are the heroes.”
Rivera then introduced new member Daniel Hall, who signed up for the Young Guns just prior to the ceremony.
“Every month we get new people saying I want to be a part of Young Guns,” Rivera said. “We are a brotherhood and sisterhood in this committee and we want to say thanks to all the wives and family members who have put up with us and stood beside us. We have prospered because of everyone here. And I just want to say the Young Guns is the future because slowly we are dying off. I want to say thanks to Howard, Jack and all the past veterans who made it possible for us to have our freedom, that they went out on the line and fought for our freedom.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.