Veteran's Day: A time to remember
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”
--Major John McCrae
Prior to June 1, 1954, November 11th was known as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. After that date, to acknowledge the contribution and sacrifice of veterans of all wars and conflicts, Congress declared that the date would be known as Veteran’s Day—a day to remember all who have served.
Many communities plan events to mark the day. Sunday in Two Harbors the American Legion will be the site of a gathering for veterans and their spouses for a short program and a roast beef and roast pork dinner. Tickets are being sold and the Legion will be closed to the public for the event.
“We’ve been doing this since before I was around,” said Roy Hanson, trying to recall when the Veteran’s Day event originated. “We have a little program, usually Vince Sando comes from Veterans Services,” he said, and the rest of the evening is spent socializing and enjoying the meal.
Sando, who began his military career in his late teens is now in his 50s and works at the Veterans Service Offices in Two Harbors and Silver Bay. He says the work keeps him tied to his former career, which he remembers fondly and misses every day. In his new role, however, he is able to combine his years of military service with his desire to guide other veterans through the process of accessing resources.
“As an old sergeant we were proud of taking care of our troops,” he said. Now years later, as he meets with vets in his office he says he feels no less committed to that ideal. “I consider it a sacred duty to help these folks.”
Sando said his role is to “advise and assist veterans and their dependents in applying for benefits for which they are legally entitled.” This can mean providing information about benefits or referrals to service organizations. It often includes lending an ear and offering support.
When he works with a vet, the conversation about benefits generally starts with an assessment of the needs of the individual.
“A lot of times people call and ask what’s available and I ask them ‘what do you need.’” Often older veterans need assistance accessing health care, while younger ones need help with the claims and appeals process, Sando said.
With the current backlog of claims at around 900,000 cases, it’s extremely important to compile “compelling evidence” of an injury, condition or need in order to streamline the approval process. Sando and service officers like him can help with that process.
“It’s in the best interest of vets to seek the assistance of a veterans service officer. The chances of a claim passing through the levels of review tend to be better if a county or national service organization service officer helps,” Sando said, adding that it’s often a matter of understanding the claims procedure or knowing the right contact.
The Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay also has a program planned for its residents and the community to honor veterans. On Sunday Wayne Johnson will address the audience gathered in the Home’s great room at 3 p.m., said Colleen Wallin, Director Recreation at the Home, who coordinated the event.
Johnson is a World War II veteran who joined the Army Air Corp on Dec. 8, 1941, at age 20. He was chosen as one of the Flying Tigers and flew P40 War Hawks and P51 Mustangs in combat, according to his biography. He is the author of a four volume history,”Chennault’s Flying Tigers” and was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 2002. Johnson was also the city attorney in Beaver Bay and Silver Bay for over 50 years.
“Usually these events are over at Kelley School,” said Ward Wallin, Volunteer Program Administrator at the Home, “ but the last couple of years Veterans Day has fallen in the weekend so we’ve had the program here. It’s been nice.” The public is welcome to attend Johnson’s presentation.
Veterans who need assistance in accessing resources or filing claims for benefits can call Vince Sando in Two Harbors at 834-8326. He is in Silver Bay on Wednesdays and can be reached at 226-4443.