Local VFW post commander to continue with tradition
As the new post commander at Breckenridge’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post 7767, Roy James wants to focus on many of the traditional activities the VFW did in the past, like recognizing their older members and individuals in the community who support veterans. He also wants to continue pushing other community projects the group sponsor, like the Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen essay contests for high school and junior high students.
James, who was sworn in as Post Commander on July 31, has been a VFW life member since he retired from the service in 1996. Originally from Ashland, Oregon, he moved to Breckenridge in 1996 following just over 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He retired with the rank of Staff Sergeant, where his job specialty was demolition and anti-tank operations.
In addition to his position as the local post commander, James also serves as the post’s Adjutant and the Quartermaster and Adjutant for District 8, which covers 12 VFW posts in the district.
His wife, Cindy, a native of Breckenridge, is also a veteran and VFW member who served 18 years in the U.S. Air force as a C130 mechanic. She currently serves as the Chaplain for the local post.
James said he feels one of the biggest strengths he brings to the job as Post Commander is energy and the desire to listen to what the members want and fulfill those goals.
“The energy that I bring, the ‘want to do,’” he said. “To listen to what they want and try to fulfill their goals on what they’d like to see us become.”
He said having been responsible for making sure things like food and water got from point A to point B when he was in the military is a very important skill he brings to the job.
He said he also feels a strong connection with the older vets and that’s why he feels it’s so important to recognize their service and sacrifice.
“We want to recognize our older veterans because of their age group,” he said. “We don’t have that many WWII and Korean veterans left. They were the only group of men (WWII vets) who fought two wars. What they went through, I could never imagine. They went from one war to the other. They didn’t have time back in the states. You have to look at what they went through. And they did keep America free during the worst conflict we’ve ever seen.”
To recognize their service the VFW presents the vets with a certificate, a pocket knife and pocket watch. James said that during WWII most of the soldiers were given a pocket knife from their families and they are trying to keep with that tradition by presenting them with an old muskrat knife, which has a blade on both sides that could be used in combat. He said the pocket watch represents their sacrifice of the time they served America.
James said one of the most important values he’s learned from the older vets is the importance of loyalty. “Loyalty to self, loyalty to the branch you served, loyalty to our nation and most of loyalty to the people of this country,” he said.
He said it’s also important to recognize service and sacrifice the veterans from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
“When you stop and look at Korea and Vietnam, we fought a war that was not popular, but those men went because they were called upon,” he said. “They did their job, and a lot of men died for what started as conflict. And they should be recognized for their valor and what they did.”
In addition to recognizing vets for their service and sacrifice, James said, it’s also important to help veterans and be there when they need them. He said at the VFW they try to provide them with help on anything from filling out forms on VA loans to burial help for widows of veterans.
He said if a veteran needs to get to a hospital or doctor’s appointment, they try to help them get to it or assist them with submitting forms for housing or VA matters. He said they will sit down with them and try to help or send them to a professional that knows all about the VA.
“I get veterans in here, they’ll call me and I’ll come down here and talk to the veteran,” he said. “I try find out what they want to know. With the chaplain, my wife, we sit down with these people and work out what their need and point them in the right direction.”
He said the VFW provides a place where vets can talk to other vets about what they went through. He sometimes vets will want to talk other vets about what they’ve been through instead of just a doctor, who, while trained, may have never been through what they’ve been through.
James said the Stephens County and Breckenridge community has been very supported of the VFW and veterans.
“We couldn’t ask to be in a better place to be than right here in Breckenridge,” he said. “From the police, fire and sheriff’s department to the county and the city commissioners, they have supported us, and I take my hat off to them.”
He said the local businesses have also been supportive. He said they are working to get more people from the community involved in VFW activities, like cooking during the holiday meals they serve to veterans.
The teachers at the schools have been wonderful about working with the VFW on getting children involved with the essay contests each year.
“If you read some of the things the kids have written, it’s hard to judge those papers because they put their heart into it,” he said. “That is what this country needs to do is look at our young people. They are our strength.”
He said another one of his goals is to work with the local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops to teach the scouts the proper way to dispose of old American and Texas flags. He said he would like the kids help with the ceremony.
One major challenge the local VFW faces in the near future is raising money to add another stone to the veteran’s memorial on the courthouse lawn. He because they are running out of space where local veterans’ names can be engraved on the monument, they are going to have to look at adding another stone within the next two years.
“Then, the price to put their names has gone up tremendously,” he said. “We need all the help we can get to put all the veterans that passed away, to do them justice for their loyalty to America.”
As post Commander, James said it’s the members that put him in office and he wants to make sure he gets the members what they need. He wants to push their goals and help them achieve them.
“A good commander always listens to the members,” he said. “Without them, you are nothing. I really am proud to have the support of my fellow veterans. That means a lot to me. To come from Oregon and have these guys believe in me. I’m going to do the right thing.”