BC woman recording Greatest Generation history
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 555 World War II veterans die in this country everyday. One Bridge City woman, Bertie Herman, is doing her part to commemorate these heroes before they’re gone by writing a series of articles of their life stories. She’s also profiling veterans of other wars and conflicts too.
“The Library of Congress is doing stories on veterans. I wanted to do something separately on local veterans,” Herman said.
Her husband, W.M. “Butch” Herman, was a World War II veteran. She met Earl McCaleb of Montgomery County on an honor flight with her husband. He told her how he writes articles on veterans for the Montgomery County News and Herman thought it would be a capital idea to do the same in Orange County. McCaleb sends her his articles from the newspaper and she sends him the Cajun jokes from Sherlock Breaux from The Record.
“He profiles veterans like this called Veteran of the Week,” Herman said. “I didn’t know about my husband’s war stories. He didn’t talk about them and I wasn’t interested at the time. The problem is finding people willing to talk about it.”
Articles will consist of their lives before they entered the service, why they went in and some of the people they met. Herman actually took a circuitous path in writing profiles about veterans. She began studying genealogy in 1999 after reading a family history on her sister. After research she discovered she qualified for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.
She became hooked on genealogy and she was invited to join the William Diamond chapter of the DAR in Orange County by Paul Skinner’s wife. There are also chapters in Beaumont and Port Arthur. She did a research paper and gave a presentation on William Diamond and discovered he was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War who went on to live to a ripe old age. It was through working with the DAR that Herman first met a group of homeless veterans in Vinton, La. Under Broken Angel Ministries, Inc. The DAR bring toiletries, clothes, and even books to them.
“They were so thrilled because they were thinking of starting a library there,” she said.
When Burt Stigen bought the old Shady Rest Motel on the closed Highway 90 section west of Vinton, he wanted to provide a home for homeless veterans, according to a prior Record article. Stigen has done that and more. Over the years he has used his calling and training as a minister of the Gospel to reach the souls of the men that have stayed at the shelter as well as providing a roof over their heads. He has had success in both areas.
When he bought the old motel it had been closed for years. With the building of I-10 and the closing of the section of Highway 90 the motel was on, there was no need for a motel. It had been closed and was in need of repair when Stigen bought the property. Stigen operates totally on faith. His faith is that the money to run the shelter will be provided in some sort or fashion.
“We do not accept, nor do we solicit any sort of government funds. A lot of veterans have had all they wanted to do with the government and do not have any trust in the government. In addition, if we were to take any funds from the government we would have them telling us how to run our business and have a lot of rules and regulations to comply with,” said Stigen.
“As it is, the Lord provides for us. We have rules that the residents have to follow to stay here and over the years we have done well.”
All but one of the old motel cabins have been demolished and replaced with log cabin type shelters for the residents. Each cabin has four bunks and a small air conditioner, TV with rabbit ears, and a handicapped bathroom. The cabins are fine and the residents are cared for. The thing that now needs to be addressed is the main building that houses the office, kitchen, dining area, and chapel. For about a year there has been a fund-raising effort underway for the next step of the multi-stage project; a new main building.
There has been the creation of a board of directors to lead and set guidelines for the new main building. Fund-raising has progressed, slowly but steadily. There is currently $33,000 in the building fund. This is about a fourth of the amount needed to construct the new building. The proposed building will be 40X100 feet in size and provide the needed space for the administrative needs, kitchen and dining, and chapel.
At the last board meeting, June 2, 2012, there was discussion of what needs to be done and ideas for fund-raising, as well as some funds presented. American Legion member Houston “Bud” Fruge presented Stigen with two $1000 dollar checks.
Fruge was able to take advantage of a program of PPG Industries whereby a retired employee who is a member of a board of directors of an organization such as the City Of Refuge can apply for a grant. He was able to get grants for 2011 and 2012 from the PPG program.
American Legion Post 49 of Orange held a raffle for a Brinkman Roadmaster BBQ grill.
Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association were in attendance and explained that the COR is the “adopted” charity for the CVMA of this region, Bravo Detachment. The motto of the CVMA is “Veterans helping Veterans” and the COR fits into the goals of the association. They’ve planned a rally and a drawing for a Model 1911 .45 caliber piston in the near future.
Retired Air Force veteran Gerritt Lawrence, owner of Webtronics in Westlake, La., near Lake Charles, reported that he is wanting to hire some of the residents of the COR to work with his recycling program. Lawrence is recycling used electronic equipment and can train the residents to run his recycling program as well as give them training in other phases of the computer business.
“I would like to give the residents the opportunity to reenter the work force. Maybe in addition to giving them a place to live we can also work on rebuilding their self esteem as well,” said Lawrence.
The need to replace the old building gets greater as time goes by. Anyone that is able to make any donation of any type to the COR is asked to do so. In addition to money- the greatest need, there is also the need for heavy equipment to ready the work site, building materials that could either be donated or sold at a reduced cost, skilled labor from carpenters to plumbers and all crafts in between.
Stigen is a man who has dedicated his life to helping veterans in need.
He purchased the property with his own funds and has spent thousands of hours, along with his wife, Denise, caring for those less fortunate than himself. He provides food and shelter for the homeless veterans, and also provides for their spiritual needs by functioning as a minister to them on a daily basis.
For information on how you can help the COR you may call: Gary Alford, 409-626-2525 or Stigen at: 337-598-3603 0r 337-589-6404
Veterans interested in being profiled by Bertie Herman may contact her at 409-735-5253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bertie Herman of Bridge City pores over articles and pictures about veterans and a photo album of her husband, W.M. “Butch” Herman, a World War II veteran. Herman wants to profile veterans- World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq through articles and memorialize them for posterity. RECORD PHOTO: David Ball