Little kids look up to superheroes. Some worship celebrities. To me, it’s those in our military who deserve the most respect and who I most admire.
Several years ago I wanted to do something to show appreciation for the sacrifices made by our local veterans. I proposed to my friends in the Lansing Junior Woman’s Club that we could do a club project and plan a small luncheon, perhaps in the church basement where our club meets. There was so much enthusiasm and support that we decided to go bigger and make it a complimentary catered dinner and we asked the Lions Club to help us out financially since we are a small club with limited funds. They didn’t hesitate to jump on board to make it happen.
We really weren’t thinking beyond that first dinner. We just wanted to get as many vets as we could in one place to say thank you and to give them a nice dinner out with their spouse or guest. But, before the night was over several people were asking about the next year and we knew we’d have to carry on the tradition.
That first year we had about 60 guests. The next year it was almost double that. And last year we hit about 160. This year is our fourth year and we’ve moved from the American Legion post to a larger venue, the Knights of Columbus in Lansing, so that we can accommodate even more of our American heroes.
Each year we have a speaker or musical entertainment or both. School kids have made decorations. Cub Scouts have been there to assist. Lions Club members volunteer their time to help. Local businesses and individuals have made generous donations for prizes — from gift certificates to free services to baskets. Those raffle prizes are also free — each guest gets a ticket as they enter. It’s one of those community events that bring people together.
Our club members work hard all year to raise funds to be able hold the dinner and a lot goes into planning it, but we all agree that it’s the least we can do to say “thank you.” The ladies that make up the Lansing Junior Woman’s Club are a wonderful, kind, generous group and I love being one of them.
So, on April 18, once again we will welcome any area veteran or anyone who is active military for a free dinner for themselves and a guest with entertainment and free raffle prizes. Reservations are required to attend and seating is limited, so please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a name, name of guest, phone number, branch of service, years served and how you learned about the dinner. You can also call to reserve a spot at (708) 516-3423. Reservations will be taken beginning Monday and must be made by April 9. Doors will open at 5 p.m. with honor guard presentation beginning at 5:30. In conversations with many local vets, I talk to some who may have served during peace time or not been involved in combat and don’t think they are included. We want to honor all those who have served in all branches of the military at any time, so if you know a veteran who might be hesitant to go, please encourage them to attend.