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Two local VFW members receive special recognition

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY Air Force veteran Roger Dirks, left, received the Commander Award, and Army veteran Rick Johnson, right, was presented an appreciation award for meritorious service from VFW Post 839 Commander Robert Shepherd, center, during the monthly post meeting on Tuesday night.

As Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 839 Commander Robert Shepherd prepares to relinquish his title and pass the reins to another member at the turn of the fiscal year, he got the opportunity to present awards to Roger Dirks and Rick Johnson during the monthly business meeting on Tuesday evening.

Johnson, an Army veteran who served from 1970 to 1974, received an appreciation award for meritorious service, while Dirks, an Air Force veteran who served from 1971 to 1975, got the Commander Award. Shepherd described Johnson as “a hell of a guy” who is quick to volunteer for any project the post is working on completing, and he added that Dirks does a lot of behind the scenes work that goes underappreciated.

Once pictures were taken and the customary razzing of the awardees by their fellow members had wrapped up, Dirks and Johnson took a few minutes to talk about why the VFW is so important to them and why they keep coming back.

“The camaraderie,” Johnson said bluntly.

“That, plus I’m the quartermaster, and I do have to do all the paperwork and pay the bills,” Dirks added.

Johnson and Dirks reiterated that it’s the men of the VFW post — and the women of the auxiliary — who make it what it is.

“It’s just a special place,” Dirks said.

The two stay busy by showing up at the post almost every day, serving on committees and helping to coordinate events that raise money to keep the nonprofit organization running. And, in a common refrain in this day and age, they’re seeking younger members who served in Desert Storm, Iraq/Afghanistan and any other modern foreign conflicts to join.

“We’ve got to recruit, you know,” Dirks said. “When we recruit one person, it seems like two people pass away from our post. We just can’t keep up.”

They’re also proud members of the local Honor Guard, and Johnson said they’re on pace to set a record for the number of funerals this year — a fact they don’t like because it means so many veterans have passed.

Ending on a lighthearted question, though, Dirks (Air Force) and Johnson (Army) both agreed on which military branch gets the most guff within the confines of the local VFW post.

“We give it to the Marines all the time, any time we get a chance, and the Navy. The Marines are a division of the Navy, so we’ve gotta give them crap,” Johnson said.

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Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or

rmaharry@timesrepublican.com.

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