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Larry Bowman wasn't going to lie. No, there aren't many teetotalers at his American Legion post watching Monday Night Football.

Most of the guys belly up to the bar.

"I can't deny that, yeah, we drink. Bars make money," said the Vietnam veteran who is one of 350 members of Reseda American Legion Post 308.

"But it's a bad rap to think that's all we do, because it sure isn't. People don't see where the money from that (bar) till goes."

They don't see the members of Post 308 and other American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in the Valley knocking on the doors of the families of troops serving overseas to make sure everyone at home is doing OK.

They don't see the guys using money from the bar to go to Home Depot and buy hardware to fix a broken water pipe, or write an emergency rent check or pay a utility bill for service members' families.

They don't see the gift baskets sent to disabled vets in hospitals every holiday, or the handouts they give to homeless vets because nobody's a softer touch than another vet, says John Mika, commander of Post 308.

"The money we raise helps fund the ROTC program at Reseda High and provides transportation for any vet who needs a lift to the VA," he said.

People don't see 88-year-old War War II post member John DeCesare pick up his trumpet and join the local Elks Club band to play in veterans' nursing homes and hospitals every month.

They don't see veteran Dennis Bonczek, a bartender at VFW Post 2323 in Granada Hills, empty the bar till so his post can host a Thanksgiving dinner for every staff member at Sepulveda VA.

And they don't see post members picking up the tab for a Christmas party for the VA patients, or funding a permanent war memorial in Granada Hills to honor every local soldier who didn't make it home.

The public also didn't see Desert Storm vet Harold Heineck, with the American Legion Post 377 in Sunland-Tujunga, out shopping last week for 60 aging and ill veterans in the nursing care home at Sepulveda VA.

And it won't see the post's members stopping by the home this Saturday for a personal visit to give the patients a holiday gift in addition to four long-sleeved T-shirts, a 12-pack of socks, and a pair of new slippers that Heineck shopped for last week.

"If we (other vets) don't help out and visit these guys, who will? Many of them don't have any family or friends left," Heineck said.

So, Bowman's right. There is a lot more going on inside American Legion halls and VFW posts than veterans sitting at the bar having a drink and telling old war stories.

If you want to see for yourself, you're invited to stop by Reseda American Legion Post 308 at 7338 Canby Ave. this Saturday night beginning at 5 p.m. for the post's annual holiday dinner and dance.

Tickets are $15, with all proceeds going to support disabled veterans and the post's ongoing volunteer programs at Sepulveda VA.

For more information, call 818-344-3800.

Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

dennis.mccarthy(at), 818-713-3749




The American Legion Post 308 helps support the Reseda High ROTC program. Members, left to right, Tyler Mead, 15, Dylan Wells, 15, and Walter Palencia, 17, are a few of the beneficiaries.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 11, 2007
Previous Article:AROUND THE REGION.
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