Breckenridge American Legion post hopes to attract younger veterans
FRISCO — Throughout the years, Jim Dexter, of Fairplay, has seen the numbers at the Breckenridge post of the American Legion ebb and flow.
When the U.S. Marine Corps veteran joined the Breckenridge post in 1996, he said it was a time when hardly any veterans were a part of the American Legion in Summit County. The post started an outreach program that Dexter said reached quite a few World War II veterans.
But in recent years, Dexter — who serves as the district commander for Colorado Legion’s District 12 — said numbers have trailed off at the Breckenridge post, down more than two-thirds. Of the five posts in District 12, the Breckenridge post is the only one that doesn’t have a building at which to reside. With 11 members, Summit’s only Legion post is a far cry from the happening post in Fairplay, Dexter said. Of the 254 members of District 12, Dexter said Fairplay is the busiest because it has a bar where vets can meet up and chat about anything and everything.
“You walk in there, you feel at home right away,” Dexter said. “They are real hospitable.”
When you combine the lack of a physical location with the aging population of Legion members — Dexter said seven of the 11 Summit County members are older than 90 — you see that the Legion’s presence isn’t what it once was in Summit County.
“The veterans that are coming out of Afghanistan, Iraq, these young men just — they just don’t reach out for help,” Dexter added. “Of course, they are not old enough yet to need help. But that’s why I joined, was to help vets after they served.”
In an effort to hopefully reach and serve more veterans in Summit County, Dexter is working with veterans and the Sunshine Cafe in Silverthorne to host an event Wednesday, Nov. 11, in honor of Veterans Day. Veterans donated to help the restaurant finance free meals for any local veterans between 7:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday. The free Veterans Day breakfast is intended to create camaraderie so younger and older veterans can “chum around together, share our similarities,” Dexter said
Mike and Tenley Spry, the owners of Sunshine Cafe, have a history of military service in their family. Mike’s father served in the U.S. Navy while two of Tenley’s grandparents were Korean War veterans, including one prisoner of war. Mike said the popular breakfast restaurant was approached by “some well-regarded veterans in the community,” vets who wanted to help finance the event but remain anonymous.
Dexter said the event is an example of a Legion commander’s call, a meeting where local veterans can gather. And Mike Spry said the cafe has some longtime regulars who are proud veterans.
“We have several dozen known vets that frequent the cafe,” Mike Spry said. “What they’ve shared with us over the years is, ‘You do good by us; we’ll do good by you.’ There can be a lot learned from some of the discipline and commitment these folks have in servicing our country.”
If and when vets join the Breckenridge Legion post, Dexter said it provides resources and services. It has built a tiny house for a Vietnam veteran in Como, and it provides things such as pellets and firewood for heating homes in the winter.
Email Summit Daily Sports & Outdoors Editor Antonio Olivero at email@example.com to obtain Jim Dexter’s phone contact. Jim explicitly asked to not publish his personal information with the article publicly.
When a vet hangs out at a commander’s call, Dexter said the kindred spirits have an opportunity to speak about issues that matter specifically to them. In recent years, Dexter said those topics of conversation have been about how the Veterans Affairs hospital in Denver has improved vastly in the past two years, their defense of the police and — of course — the election.
As for Veterans Day, Dexter said community members should not only think about the brotherhood vets formed in service but also those among them who gave it all. Beyond that, he said to spend time thinking about the widows and orphans who’ve lived on after a veteran has died.
Charles Simpson, a local veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said to remember those veterans who served not on the battlefield but in other ways.
“All of us who served, through the history of our country, we all did to keep us free,” Simpson said. “Remember all those, like me, who fought the Cold War for many, many years. We fought a war where we never really had any shooting. We did what we were supposed to do, kept the peace by being strong. My job was not to go to war; be so strong you didn’t have to. My point is the fact that we’ve got a lot of people keeping the peace right now in very tough times.”
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