The Kansas Veteran’s and Family Reunion provides a great celebration for members of the armed forces, both past and present. This past weekend was the event’s 30th anniversary, and it delivered quite a spectacle all days.
More than that, though, the event has become somewhat of a safe haven for some of the men and women who sacrifice for the sake of the country. Some are locals while others travel great distances.
One man, Larry Wolff, is happy he was able to get up and around at all.
Wolff is retired from the Navy. He served overseas in Mekong, Delta in South Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. After his stint there, he served on a U.S. river patrol boat for several years before retiring. He has enjoyed making the trip to the reunion in El Dorado every year. He gets the chance to see some old friends, like Jeff Evans of El Dorado or long-time friend Bill Thompson, who was a marine.
Last year at the reunion, though, Wolff was in a wheelchair. He was suffering from a rare disease that made it difficult for him to walk.
He wasn’t supposed to be able to do so, but this past weekend, Wolff was able to walk without any aid. He said he praised and thanked the Lord after he recovered the ability to walk again after a long period of time had passed.
It wasn’t just his family who enjoyed seeing him walk for the first time in a year. Lisa Marx, who currently resides in Spokane, Wash., used to live in Kansas and even worked with Wolff; the two of them spent 10 years in construction together building houses and sheds. Marx was the last person Wolff expected to see in El Dorado. But as he sat in his lawn chair with his family camped out near the shore, that’s exactly who snuck behind him to surprise him with extra support for his monumental achievement, not to mention his service in the armed forces.
“They got me,” Wolff said excitedly.
Alvin Keith Jr., was another veteran who was honored this past weekend as he and friends and family members such as Eden Fuson, have several close ones in the armed forces. Keith made explosive weapons during the Vietnam War. He got drafted in 1973 at the age of 18 to serve in Germany before eventually becoming a reserve in Vietnam. When he returned home, he served in the National Guard for 35 years.
He deals with personal pains from his time, as well as pain from those he lost.
“I’ve got friends that I’ve lost,” he said. “It still hurts.”
Fuson’s brother Lyle Zahorsky passed away from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the age of only 21 year old after two tours in Iraq. Fuson’s grandfather was a WWII veteran. It’s easy to see where Fuson gets her appreciation. She helps get service dogs to vets in need and helps with fundraisers whenever possible.
“Everybody deserves a thanks,” she said.
Another person who understands appreciation is Randy Wells. Wells turned a trailer into a merchandise shop at the lake, the same he’s done every single year for the veteran’s reunion. He sells bandanas, hats, (which he embroiders himself), pins, shirts and other cool military gear.
Wells’ father Royce joined the Marines in 1945 shortly after WWII finished. Wells’ father-in-law Raymond Poeschel died in 1972 of a blood clot after he served in Iwo Jima and the Marshall Islands.
So many others were there getting honored for not just their service, but their personal stories and sacrifices at the Veteran’s and Family Reunion. It’s always a truly inspiring event for all to enjoy.