Veterans News

A Feeling You Can't Get Anywhere Else

This July, we’re kicking off the 75th-anniversary celebration of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission. We started by interviewing ENVSC Chair John Amen about his volunteer work for veterans, from the time he joined to his time as GER to his work as Commission Chair.

On the ENVSC’s history of service:
The Elks National Veterans Service Commission was born 75 years ago. It’s been a proud era of service, since day one and even before. It started with the WWI field hospital in France, and the first real veterans hospital in the New England area. During WWII, we had the Elks War Commission, which turned the Lodges into victory centers where any veteran, any soldier in uniform, was welcomed in the Lodge and it was a great service to our country. In both of those campaigns, we opened our lodges after wars were over to help retrain veterans, bring them in and teach them new skills.

On his inspiration for serving veterans:
Service to veterans is, I believe, our most valuable program, both for our country and for veterans who deserve the best. My father served in the European theater in four different campaigns during WWII as a combat medic and, came back a very different person.

It's such a worthy and fulfilling service when you visit with and serve veterans, even if you helped wash dishes or something like that. It provides a feeling of service that you can't obtain anywhere else.

On how he became involved in serving veterans with the Elks:
In Colorado, we have a very active program. We partner with the state National Guard and we seek the families out. We help the families, particularly when a National Guardsmen is deployed. I have been a member of two different Lodges in the Denver area. We were blessed to have a large VA hospital, the Northern Colorado VA. And in connection with that medical center, they had a veterans nursing home. We had a program of providing entertainment for the patients at the nursing home. We would do bingo and bring food and it was a lot of fun for the veterans.

After I transferred, we had a similar program; we had a veterans’ blackjack night. And I learned how to be a blackjack dealer. It was the same kind of thing, Elks serving to provide veterans some entertainment. Forget about your troubles for a little while and enjoy yourself.

On his role in starting the Welcome Home, the newest ENVSC program:
When I was a Grand Exalted Ruler on the national tour in 2014 to 2015, one of my stops was Washington D.C. I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting with the secretary of the Veterans Administration, Robert MacDonald. He said he wanted us to join with the VA on eradicating homelessness in America. And that was the trigger in 2015 to the agreements between the Elks and the Veterans Administration that continues to this day where we work to keep veterans out of homelessness.

We have the Welcome Home Kit program that serves our veterans when they are being brought out from a homeless situation into an apartment or some other kind of home facility. And we provide the essentials to make that situation livable again. Local Elks do all the legwork in acquiring the necessities of life for our veterans. It’s such a worthy, worthy program. We will continue to work on homeless veterans' projects until every single veteran in America is housed.

On the next 75 years and more:
The ENVSC helps facilitate the Elks motto that as long as there are veterans, the Elks will be of service to them. And we will continue that as long as there is Elkdom, which in my mind is going to be forever!

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