Community comes out to help Vietnam veteran
KOKOMO – Local Boy Scouts gave back, in a unique way, to a Vietnam veteran whose home sustained substantial damage from the Aug. 24 tornadoes.
Scouts on April 8 removed tree stumps and planted flowers around George Dean’s home, before presenting the combat-wounded veteran with an American flag in a ceremony on his front yard.
The tornadoes of last August uprooted 13 trees on Dean’s property, and damaged the roofs on his home, garage and shed. Then, days later, Dean received even more bad news. His insurance carrier had dropped him and neglected to let him know that they had not renewed his policy.
Dean, 73, had no insurance to cover the repair costs to his home.
After word got out about Dean’s misfortune, members of the veteran community stepped in to help. Leading the charge was Dean’s neighbor and friend of 10 years, Terry Baumfalk.
With donations made from several military organizations and United Auto Workers Local 685, $8,600 was raised to place a new metal roof on Dean’s home.
The United Way of Howard County’s disaster relief has also pitched in to help remove some of the remaining large trees on Dean’s property, and has paid for the damaged insulation in his attic to be replaced.
But this is just the beginning, said Baumfalk, who is also senior vice commander of the Kokomo chapter of Disabled American Veterans.
Donations will be accepted until May 1 to help finish repairing Dean’s home. And it’s Baulmfalk’s hope that if at least $2,000 is raised in the coming weeks, that a portion can be sent to the Marion Veterans Association hospital to purchase much needed physical therapy bikes for veterans.
Like Dean, who was seriously wounded in an ambush in April 1969, many veterans still require a great deal of therapy, and Baumfalk hopes the funds raised can help.
“This is the way for the community – Howard County, Kokomo – (to show that) we do care for the veterans,” Baumfalk said. “That veterans do have needs, that sometimes they just need help.”
The 20 Boy Scouts of Troop 519, were honored to meet and fellowship with veterans, said chaplain aide, Anthony Dunten, 14.
Troop members learned new skills and were given the opportunity to thank a veteran in a proactive way, which is essential in teaching a younger generation about our servicemen and women, said Anthony’s mother, Jennifer Dunten.
“Anthony is lucky because we do have several veterans in our family,” she said. “But even if we did not have that, as patriots, we feel it’s very important for our kids to understand what the veterans have done for us.”
As community members worked, Dean said it reminded him of an old fashioned barn-raiser, where the community would come together to show support in helping a neighbor reach a goal.
For Baumfalk, it means even more than that. Saturday was a way to address how Vietnam veterans had been treated in this country after their service, he said.
Years ago, when Dean returned home, he was spat on, Baumfalk remembers.
“This is my way to do what I can to make a wrong right,” he said. “And all of this is showing that the community, we do care about the veterans; that they’re not forgotten.”
“As all Vietnam War veterans know that it still hurts how we were treated when we came home from Vietnam,” Baumfalk added.
“But, our healing is by paying it forward, so other veterans will never be treated like the Vietnam War veterans when they came home,” he added.