Volume LIVFebruary 2007Number 1

Thanking Those Who Sacrificed Everything

Korean War vet Arnold Weidner, wearing his uniform from the Military Police unit he served in, talks to Bro. Jim Holiday, Worshipful Master of the Somerset Lodge.

Daily American Staff photo by Bob Leverknight

Somerset Lodge No. 358 wanted to honor the country's veterans, young and old, in a unique way, so they turned to a forgotten custom. For the past two years, the lodge has held a canteen on Veteran's Day.

During World War II, soldiers leaving for and returning from battle could stop at a canteen and receive food, drinks, clothing and cigarettes. Canteens were often located near train stations and staffed by local volunteers. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, USO and local organizations were responsible for comforting thousands of soldiers.

Members of the Somerset Lodge wanted to give veterans another opportunity to enjoy coffee, doughnuts, friends and good conversations, so for the second year in a row, they opened their lodge as a canteen from 6 to 11 a.m. on Veteran's Day.

"We wanted something catchy the guys would respond to," Bro. Jim Holiday, Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 358, said. "We start early because of all the other activities for veterans that day. We get them stocked up with coffee and doughnuts to prepare them for their busy day."

The event was held to honor veterans, but the doors were opened to anyone from the community, Bro. Holiday said. Visitors began arriving at 6:30 a.m. and included World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Iraqi War veterans, who spent the morning sharing stories with each other. One World War II veteran proudly donned his uniform, which still fit after more than 60 years.

"We don't do it for individual publicity," Bro. Holiday said. "It's a way for the Masons to say thanks to those who allow us to do what we do."

It is not intended to promote the lodge; however, the event does let people know there is an active and viable Masonic lodge in Somerset. Several visitors asked what Freemasonry is, and although no one was solicited for membership, information was provided to the public about what it means to be a Mason.

Support came from the community, as well as the lodge. Wal-Mart donated money and Dunkin' Donuts supplied doughnuts. One local resident who attended previously and thought it was a great idea, showed up at 6 a.m. this year, brownies in hand, to volunteer.

Rep. and Bro. Bob Bastian provided the coffee, and Herring Motors owner Bro. Patrick Herring and Hemminger Homes owner Bro. Jack Hemminger contributed monetary donations. Sister Bonnie Landis baked two cakes featuring an Iwo Jima flag and "Thank You to All Veterans."

"It's a great day," Bro. Holiday said. "It's a chance for vets of the community to be thanked, and it helps in getting more and more people aware of what Masons do."

More than 60 people attended last year's canteen, and Somerset Lodge plans to hold the event again this year.

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