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Ripon VFW offers meals, clinic to vets
Orvil Kirby chews on a tooth pick while watching fellow veteran Rock Rauchman work the grill during the Wednesdays lunch at VFW Post 1051. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The number twists and pulls at Tracy Crawford’s heart and conscience.

The commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1051 scans his monthly newsletter, stumbling over the suicide statistics.

In 2012, suicides among U.S. military veterans hit a record high – 349, an average of more than one per day. A vast majority of the suicides (69 percent) were among the veterans in Crawford’s demographic – 50 years or older.

But while it saddens Crawford, a Navy flyboy in the Vietnam War, it also empowers his vision for Post 1051.

“We’re trying to provide resources any way we can,” he said, “by making them feel welcomed when they come back or helping them find a job.”

The post stays busy, opening its doors to veterans young and old. Crawford doesn’t have an exact count for the post’s membership, “but there are more than 500 people on my mailing list.”

Crawford unveiled a March calendar on Tuesday afternoon that gives weight to an age-old thought: There’s comfort in food.

There’s a lot to digest in the coming days and weeks at the facility along West Ripon Road.

Continuing a longstanding tradition, Post 1051 will offer a meal virtually every day of the month to its veterans and the general public, including:

• Breakfast every Sunday morning from 8:30 to 11:30, hosted by the men’s, women’s auxiliary or the motorcycle group;

• Tacos and tostadas every Monday night;

•Gourmet burgers, onion rings and French fries every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.;

• A Friday night dinner with a menu that ranges from baked chicken to spare ribs to chicken and dumplings.

• And on Sunday, March 17, the post will host a corn beef and cabbage feed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, with a celebrity chef. Mayor Dean Uecker, a member of the men’s auxiliary, will donate and cook all the corn beef.

More importantly, Post 1051 will host a mobile VA clinic on Thursday, March 14. The clinic will provide veterans with spot check-ups and a group of service officers will answer questions or hear complaints regarding health care and other issues.

“It’s another valuable asset the VA provides to the veterans. There’s so much controversy about veterans not getting their due course with health. This is one way for the VA to bring services out to the different posts.”

The mobile clinic will return to Post 1051 for the third time since Crawford’s been in leadership.

The first two times, he says, 30-50 veterans participated.

“We’re here to provide support for our veterans, both returning and existing,” Crawford said. “We still have some fellas from Korea (but) the World War II boys are fading into the sunset. Now we’re seeing Vietnam guys passing on because of agent orange stuff and cancer. It’s kind of sad.

“We’re trying to help all those that return with all the stresses (of war).”