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VFW post stepping up visibility

Membership rises, post starts new ventures

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VFW post stepping up visibility

Veterans of Foreign Wars Jimmie Connors Post No. 6311 member Lee Herren, left, and Post Commander Carlon Perry hold up a photo of Jimmie Connors outside the McFall-Grisham American Legion Post 249.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED May 17, 2013 1:59 a.m.

Carlon Perry leans forward onto his forearms, peering over the top of reading glasses.

In front of him are a stack of papers and pamphlets tucked neatly into a folder. The folder tucks neatly into a briefcase, and the handle of the briefcase neatly into his hand.

See how that works?

Perry is nothing if not meticulous. Even his conversations have outlines, ruled by bullet points to ensure every point is made.

“Let’s not get too far from this,” he says, tapping his outline.

Over his shoulder in a large glass encasing hang three block letters: VFW.

As the commander of Jimmie Connors VFW Post 6311, Perry honors those letters – and the millions they represent – with a passion and commitment that is palpable.

Perry has a vision for the fledgling post, and his plan is marked by specific goals and benchmarks.

Yep, bullet points.

“When I took over we had four or five members that would attend the meetings,” Perry said on Thursday afternoon from inside the American Legion Hall, a facility it shares with Post 249. “It was disturbing. They had lost hope.”

Hope, it seems, has been restored.

The former Manteca mayor and newspaper publisher was recently elected to his second term as commander, a result of his triumphs in Year 1.

Post 6311 has a sunny future and budding presence in the Manteca/Lathrop/French Camp communities.

Perry recently received word from the national commander’s office that it will be acknowledged for 100 percent membership. retention.

Since June, membership has climbed 21 percent to 75 members with an average meeting attendance of 20.

“Jimmie Connors VFW Post 6311 was nonexistent in this community,” Perry assessed.  “The American Legion is active and they have their own building.

“I’m encouraged that our folks will be engaged and participate as they see the rewards. We’re talking about doing things, and they’re not quite sure what’s going on. If they see the positives … that breeds success; that breeds a want to part of this.”

Visibility, organization and communication are key, Perry said.

Post 6311, in conjunction with its Ladies Auxiliary, will host a Memorial Day remembrance on Monday, May 27 at the East Union Cemetery on Union Road.

The ceremony will include: the posting of colors by the Manteca Unified School District JROTC, under the direction of Karl Knutsen; the national anthem by Kayla Plata; a Gold and Blue Star presentation; the laying of wreaths; and keynote speaker Allen Cook, a double amputee Vietnam veteran who once served as the director of the National Cemetery System of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Cook was recruited for the speaking engagement by The Place of Refuge pastor Mike Dillman, who invited the Purple Heart recipient and author to take part in the Welcome Home Heroes event at Woodward Park on Sunday, May 26.

Perry has also planned a special reading of the names of local soldiers killed in the line of duty. A bell will toll for each.

“That’s never been done,” he said. “I think it will add to that. It will be nice to recognize those folks.”

In the coming months, the post will take part in the Flags Over Manteca program for a first time. It will also continue to perform the 21-gun salute and flag folding at services across Northern and Central California, as well as clean the headstones of every fallen soldier buried locally.

“We’re trying to change attitudes,” Perry said.

Change began shortly after his election in June. His first significant act was developing lines of communication with members, existing and prospective.

Perry and membership chairman Glenn Page started a phone tree, calling with information on events and news. Soon, a monthly newsletter was developed, complete with minutes of their meetings, a note from Perry and advertisement.

The post has even developed a new membership pamphlet and will eventually launch a new website and “Thank You” card campaign.

The cards were inspired by Perry’s next-door neighbor whose son has served two tours in Afghanistan with the Army reserves.  Perry wondered if the families of active soldiers were being thanked for their support and sacrifice.

“Here’s a chance for our VFW to let soldiers and their families know that we appreciate them,” Perry said.

He carefully measures the success and failures of every endeavor, big or small.

At the Crossroads Street Faire in April, the post handed out 15 pamphlets. Five found their way back to a meeting. He hasn’t forgotten about the 10 still in limbo.

“Our group feels empowered,” Perry said, “to be a non-profit group, a veterans group confident in handling the needs of other veterans in this area.”

There was some resistance to change – some still vehemently oppose the change in meeting location – but Perry’s bullet-point plan is working.

“There were some that lost hope and interest,” said post historian Lee Herren. “They’d come to meetings, but it was like ‘Oh, we’re here.’ They’re showing interest again and that’s good.”

Post 6311 has a presence again, carefully crafted by its meticulous leader.

See how that works?

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