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Veterans honored at annual dinner

Over 100 attend Nov. 11 event

The Elks Lodge in White Salmon was crowded on the evening of Nov. 11 as veterans from around the area streamed in for the annual Veterans Day dinner.

According to former Sgt. Ed LaMotte, commander of American Legion's Evan Childs Post No. 87, more than 100 veterans attended this year's event.

"To most of us, it means remembering those who went before us and the sacrifices they made," said LaMotte, an Underwood resident and a Vietnam veteran who served with the 101st Airborne. "There is good fellowship among us. People like to get together, especially the old guys. It's a time to remember."

One of the old-timers is Bill Manly of White Salmon, a veteran of World War II. Manly, who has been a member of the Evan Childs Post for 33 years, said he appreciates being able to see his old friends from the Army at the annual dinner.

"There are a few less of us every year," Manly said. "But most of those who attend, I've known for years."

Manly said he was sent overseas in 1943, and didn't return to the United States until January 1946.

Two special guests came to White Salmon on Veterans Day to honor the crowd of veterans and their guests: Lt. Col. Richard Langenbach, the American Legion's statewide department commander; and Bob Connelly, the 5th District commander from Vancouver.

LaMotte read the names of several veterans who have been members of Evan Childs Post No. 87 for many decades, including three who have been members over 60 years: Eugene Hill, 63 years; Ken Gardner, 62 years; Mitch Hecomovich, 60 years; Ray Chevalier, 59 years; and Lionel Krall, 55 years.

"Continuous membership is important to those guys," LaMotte said.

White Salmon resident Al Strunk, a Korean War veteran who served as commander of Evan Childs Post No. 87 for 33 years before LaMotte was assigned to the duty this year, was also on hand to share stories and some laughs with the veterans.

LaMotte added that there are more women veterans now, and invited women to join the White Salmon Post.

"Women are getting more active. There are more in the service and more are interested in being members," LaMotte said. "We have three or four now."

LaMotte also pointed out that Post 87 is there to help veterans who need it.

"If anyone knows a veteran in trouble, let me know," LaMotte said. "We want to help out. We have ways to get assistance to them, but the thing is, we need to know about it. If anybody -- and it doesn't have to be a veteran -- knows a veteran who needs help, please let us know. We have all sorts of assistance programs."

LaMotte said the Post can offer financial help, help veterans in finding jobs, provide assistance with health care, or even help driving.

LaMotte wants to organize the Post's records and other artifacts, and is asking for help to do so. He explained that he is hoping to find an American Legion member willing to serve as a Post historian, and another member willing to be a public affairs officer.

"We have a lot of historical documents in a case, and I want to put together a plan to make something of it," LaMotte said. "Also, I'd like to write stories of the American Legion, and some stories on some of the guys. I'll be working on that and if I get some help, fine, otherwise I'll be doing it myself."

The American Legion Post in White Salmon is named for Evan Childs, who was the first White Salmon soldier to die in World War I.

Childs, who was born in South Dakota in 1894, moved to White Salmon in 1908.

When the United States became embroiled in World War I, Childs was drafted. He trained at Fort Lewis and was assigned to Company B, 316 Engineers, 91st Division.

In 1918, not long before World War I ended, Childs' unit tried to stop a German drive across France. The 91st sustained 9,000 casualties in three days.

Historical records show that Childs, 25, was killed on Sept. 30, 1918, while trying to carry a wounded officer out of the Argonne forest near Exermont, France.

Germany surrendered on Nov. 11, 1918, the date that was later to be commemorated as Veterans Day.

The American Legion's Evan Childs Post was organized in White Salmon in 1919.

LaMotte invited any veterans living in the area to become a member of the American Legion Post.

"If there are any veterans out there who aren't members of the Legion and would like to join, contact me or Steve Leek," he said.

LaMotte can be reached at 493-3813. Post Adjutant Steve Leek can be reached at 493-3516.


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