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Shelby vets want new home

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But no money is available to build new VFW headquarters

By Lisa King

Some of the two dozen active members of the Shelbyville VFW think they would benefit from having a new building.

Others think that being able to move from Post 1179’s small headquarters on the 600 block of Main Street is just a pipe dream.

But not Charles Turner and Barry Campbell.

Turner, a retired Shelby County dairy farmer and Korean War veteran who served in the Navy, is trying to get the other members more motivated in that direction, but he isn’t having much luck.

“It’s sort of my brainstorm,” he said. “I’d love to have a bigger place where we could have more events open to the public and have more space for us to meet as comrades.”

Turner said the post, established in the 1980s with about 70 members, was started by World War II veterans, who have been dying out, and the later generations of vets are not as interested in joining the post, although a dozen Vietnam vets have joined during the past year.

He thinks maybe a new building would draw more members as well as the support of the public.

“There is just too much history here to let the post die out,” he said.

But Post Commander Roger Green said he didn’t see how Turner’s dream ever could become a reality.

“You’ve got to have money for something like that,” Green said. “We don’t have any money. Even if we sold the downtown building, we still wouldn’t have enough money to do anything.”

Campbell, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, said he supports Turner’s dream.

“I believe God has a plan. We just don’t always know what it is,” he said. “I just know that miracles do happen every day. I’m proof of that. I made it home, didn’t I?”

Campbell said that what is needed is a donation of land and money with which to build.

He said he could help with the building, as he is an excavator by trade.

Turner said he had an offer of a donation of land near the Shelby County Animal Shelter but would prefer to locate the new post headquarters in an area more visible to the public.

His dream building would consist of two rooms, one for the museum of war memorabilia currently on display at the post and one to be used as a meeting and events room.

“It would be great to be able to have things like pancake breakfasts, to raise money for the post, and also to have activities to educate the public, especially the children,” he said. “It really bothers me that kids don’t get the real meaning these days of what freedom really means. I think we have a duty to keep that ideal alive, and what better way than to have a place where people can learn about it?”

The VFW has owned the build at 617 Main St. since the 1980s. The facility consists of one narrow room that serves as a combination dining room and museum, with exhibits of old military uniforms, equipment and photos lining two walls. Lately the post has been serving as a place for vets and the public to learn to sell on eBay, with volunteer Jamie James occasionally holding classes on Saturdays.

“We’re all brothers there,” Campbell said. “We were willing to die for each other and shed our blood for each other. So to a bunch of us trying to do what we can to get a new building, yes, we know don’t have any money, but we’ve sure got a lot of hope. We’re not too proud to ask.”