Hales Corners — For Hales Corners American Legion and Auxiliary members, it's the little things that make the difference.
They provided a meal, some clothes and a bit of conversation to 25 residents of the West Allis Veterans Administration Medical Center on Saturday at the Hales Corners Public Library, 5885 S. 116th St. This is the second year the groups teamed up to feed and clothe VA Medical Center patients, but according to Auxiliary President Linda Conatty, the groups will be turning up the heat on the events.
The next is planned for Feb. 15.
After they ate, the group played bingo for prizes and went to the veterans memorial in Hales Corners. All medical center patients left with a bag containing personal care items.
Veterans helping veterans
Henry Hingiss, member of the American Legion, was 16 as he watched his schoolmates be drafted to fight in World War II. He was too young to join the armed forces, but eventually convinced his dad to lie about his age. He got in and served on the battleship Maryland in the battle of Okinawa.
He served food at Saturday's event and had conversations with Vietnam and Iraq war veterans. They thanked him for his service. He thought their gratitude was interesting.
"They were in it too, you know?" he said.
He talked to a baker in the Navy and a couple of Marines and, even though they may never meet again, he said they were friends for that day.
Last year Hingiss donated monetarily, but didn't physically help with the event. This year he helped move the tables and serve the food, and it was a much more involved experience for him. But he said it was the ladies of the auxiliary who did most of the work.
Rebirth of the Auxiliary
For a 10-year span, the Hales Corners Legion had no auxiliary. In 2007, Conatty, whose husband was in the military and whose family has many military ties, brought the auxiliary back with a group of friends.
Since then, she's been in parades in Hales Corners, went on a flight with a World War II veteran to Washington, D.C., and creates events like Saturday's.
She does it all because, as she puts it, "It's extremely important that the vets are taken care of."
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