Local vets and families enjoy free Thanksgiving meal at Legion Post 639

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. American Legion Post 639 was established in 1981 by a group of Vietnam Veterans who wanted to make sure no one ever forgot their brothers-in-arms.

On Thursday despite the cold, wet weather a packed crowd of around 150 turned out for the free Thanksgiving feast at the post and even though many of them could have been at a relatives house for the holiday....

"This is my family," said 96 year-old Ed Fox, who's one of only two World War II vets left at the post and one of only four known survivors of the Battle of Midway. He's in the trailer of the new movie "Midway" which tells the story of a pivotal moment in the war when Fox and his fellow soldiers repelled Japanese invaders from the island.

Coming after Pearl Harbor, it was a serious blow to the Japanese fleet that they never quite recovered from and proved to be a major victory for the Allied forces.

"It was probably the greatest naval battle in the history of the United States," Fox said.

Fox is a USMC veteran who's traveled the world from Midway to Iwo Jima to Korea, but he finds great comfort in spending his Thanksgiving at the place he calls home.

The Legion Post.

With his military family.

"I can hardly put that into words," he said as his voice cracked with emotion. "You feel it in your heart. The camaraderie."

"There's a lot of people that don't have anywhere else to go and even though you're complete strangers you're all a part of the same family," added 38 year-old Matt Stover, also a Marine vet.

Certainly the food is a draw. But the post is also an oasis for all vets, regardless of their age or branch of service, to find solace when they return from the ravages of war and have trouble assimilating back into the everyday world.

"It's other people who may not have been there with you but still have the same experience and it's easier to talk to them," Stover explained.

"Even if you're young you're with people who understand what you're dealing with and you don't have to talk about it," added post commander Darin Hargis. "You just come in and meet some guy and he says he was at Camp Pendleton in the '60's and you say 'I was there in the '90's' and he says 'Did you go to so-and-so?' and you say 'Yeah!' and so now your best friends."

Hargis was just 20 years-old when he came back from the Gulf War and understands why vets sometimes need to let their hair down. But on this day it was a laid-back atmosphere with most of those in attendance observing the good Thanksgiving etiquette of no cellphone conversations at the table and no talking about politics.

"If you do see a cellphone in use it's probably going to be somebody asking Siri or Google a question to settle a bet about something ridiculous," Hargis said with a laugh. "But it will probably not be about politics. They're not out there to have those debates. You'll hear jokes, but none I can tell probably."