Veterans helping Veterans
Orange has a long and proud history of military service. Orange is also home to two very active official veteran’s organizations, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Orange is also the home and birthplace of a very unique veteran’s organization, the Stark ’64 Veterans Association.
The planning for the 2010 reunion of the Lutcher Stark Class of 1964 reunion was underway when one of the planners, Carol Stewart suggested compiling a list of veterans of the class. Mike Ball agreed to undertake the job and was soon joined by Jerry Gatch and Lloyd McDonald.
The original thought of veteran recognition as a simple list soon turned into a booklet of veteran’s stories, along with pictures. No one was pressured into sending information, but the vets that were contacted all sent some information, some brief, some a little more detailed.
By the time of the reunion 40 vets had been identified. Six veterans were deceased. Twenty eight were profiled in the booklet, with one more contributing at a later date. Twenty four of those profiled were in attendance at the reunion.
Their stories varied, some were in combat, and some were not. Some of the vets had only served a short enlistment; several had made careers out of the military. The highest ranking veteran had been a Navy Captain, the highest decorated had earned a Sliver Star. There was even one girl from the class, Lila Withrow Quilici, who had been to Vietnam as a “roadie” with a rock band that performed for the troops. Quilici, who had been under fire several times, became the “pin up” for the vets.
At the reunion was a special ceremony in which all of the veterans present were recognized and presented with a specially designed commemorative pin.
“A bond developed that night between several of our class that did not exist previously. I didn’t even know who all the vets were until we began to work on this project,” said Gatch. “Our newfound camaraderie combined with us learning about the City of Refuge, led to the formation of the Stark ’64 Veterans Association.”
There is a bond between veterans that can only be understood by other veterans. The Stark Vets that the City of Refuge was a shelter for homeless veterans and was in need of help. They immediately began to meet by phone, email, in person and any other way they could think of to communicate about what they could do for the COR. The agreement to organize was unanimous, so the paperwork was begun. As the organizing work was being done there was also a fund raising effort.
Among the Stark Vets alone there was $1200 donated to the COR for general use. Gatch agreed to be the Executive Director and to coordinate the efforts of the group. The Stark ’64 Veterans Association was formally incorporated as an IRS 501 (c) 3 organization.
Early in 2011 the Vets began a fundraising campaign among the entire class. There was $3000 raised and the decision was made to conduct a picnic for the residents at the COR. Money not spent on the picnic was donated to the COR to go toward the cost of building a cabin. The goal of the ’64 Vets is to build a cabin dedicated to those from Orange County were killed in Vietnam.
Since the spring of 2010 the Stark Vets have donated $5000 to the COR.
Membership in the Stark ’64 Veterans Association is open to anyone. There are three categories of membership, the first is for members of the Stark Class of 1964, the second class is for any veteran, and the third class is for non-veterans who wish to be veteran supporters. Membership in the association is free and there are no dues. All that is asked is a desire to support and help veterans who wish to help other veterans.
For information about joining the association, you may contact Jerry Gatch by email at: email@example.com