When members of Tualatin’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 saw the war in Iraq unfolding, they knew they wanted to help on the home front. They knew they wanted to connect with the troops overseas by sending them hard-to-get items to ease the strain of serving in an unforgiving desert thousands of miles from home.
But they never guessed that their adopt-a-unit project would earn them national recognition.
And now, for forging a deep and lasting bond with the U.S. Army Reserve 671st Engineering Company, Post 3452 has come out first among 9,000 posts for the VFW’s national community service award.
In March, post commander Dale Potts of Tualatin and post quartermaster and troop liaison Ron Anderson of Wilsonville will fly to Washington, D.C., to receive the award at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the same ballroom where the president’s inaugural ball was held.
“That’s quite a deal for a little 148-member post like us,” says Anderson, an Army Reserve veteran of Desert Storm. “The post the next-closest in size that made the finals is 21/2 times as large as we are.”
The 671st Engineering Company, a Portland-based unit that specializes in building bridges under combat conditions, was activated in January 2003, hooked up with the 3rd Infantry Division and took part in the invasion of Iraq. They were the first troops into Baghdad, capturing and securing the city’s airport.
At the urging of VFW Post 3452, the Tualatin City Council adopted the 671st and helped to sponsor a collection effort for snack foods, paperbacks, magazines, baby wipes, toothpaste and personal toiletries.
The toiletries proved critically important to a unit that at one point went 42 days without a shower.
All told, the VFW collected 2,700 pounds of goodies and $6,000 to ship “care packages” to the troops.
But it didn’t end when the 671st returned home. Post 3452 has helped with counseling, scholarships, job placement and tax preparation for the soldiers.
“We didn’t do it alone,” says Potts, a U.S Navy reservist. “The whole community helped. And the thing is, if the need arose again — God forbid — we’d do it all again.”