By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Legion luncheon fosters camaraderie

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Sheriff Jack Crabtree, father of a soldier, is the first speaker at the new veterans  luncheon in the American Legion Hall.
Marcus Larson / News-Register
Sheriff Jack Crabtree, father of a soldier, is the first speaker at the new veterans' luncheon in the American Legion Hall.

Sheriff Jack Crabtree spoke of the helpless feeling he had when his son Joe was seriously injured in Iraq in 2005. Doctors urged him to fly to Germany immediately, he said, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have a passport. 

While the thought of getting a passport might cross a person’s mind when a loved one enters military service, few probably follow up on that, he suggested.

“I don’t think I can say this enough,” he said. “Make absolutely certain you have a passport. Just get a passport. Please pass that message on.”

Over soup, Yamhill County’s Veteran Services Officer Jerry Wilson issued a warning of a different sort.

He said he had  recently received a call alerting him off to “pension poachers” preying on elderly veterans or spouses. Armed with fancy brochures sporting the Veterans Affairs logo, the scammers claim they can cut through red tape to quickly secure guaranteed pensions for veterans or their dependents for a fee of $1,000.

But Wilson said he is able to determine whether or not someone qualifies for a military pension, and help them secure it, free of charge. That’s part of his mission.

“I can talk them through the process,” he said. “And if they qualify, I can give them an estimate of what the pension might be.”

Wilson said the American Legion’s monthly luncheon series is one of many beneficial things growing out of the Veteran’s Forum, held last fall. He said he’s hoping to see more younger veterans join service groups like the American Legion to capitalize on the momentum.

“The young guys need to step up and put forth the effort,” he said. “That’s the only way we’re going to survive,” he said. 

One of those whose appreciated the message and embraced it is Cody Pankey, a 27-year-old Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s become the American Legion’s youngest local member.

Wilson said he’s reaching out to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to the same end, hoping they can find the kind of camaraderie Pankey has. 

The luncheons are scheduled for 11:30 the third Monday of each month at the Legion Hall, 126 N.E. Atlantic St. They feature soup, salad, roll and dessert for $5.

Reservations aren’t necessary but are appreciated. They may be made at 503-435-2218

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