VFW Post 1621 earns two national awards

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

JANESVILLE—The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and its commander earned national recognition in July during the VFW's national convention in Louisville, Ky.

VFW Post 1621 and its Ladies Auxiliary was the recipient of the VFW's Outstanding Community Service Post Award and were recognized during a July 22 reception. Post Commander Don Bolton also was named an All-American Post Commander.

Both honors are firsts for the local Post that will turn 85 in January.

"We were really happy," said Bolton, who attended the convention with longtime local post member Richard Hoium. Both men are from Janesville.

"The club has never had national recognition like that. It's a first in 85 years," he said.

The Janesville VFW Post was among 68 VFW Posts chosen from 7,300 worldwide to receive the Outstanding Community Service Post Award, according to a news release from that national organization.

Criteria to receive the award are set by the VFW state headquarters for recognizing posts' community service.

The local post helps military families and veterans and provides honor guards for military funerals.

VFW volunteers nationwide provide 11.9 million hours of community service valued at more than $263 million during the last year.

"Through our community service program, we help build a better, stronger America, and we fulfill our commitment to serve America's veterans and their families," said VFW Commander in Chief John E. Hamilton, in honoring award recipients.

"This post has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to their community. Their exemplary service is an example to citizens across this great nation," he said.

Each post received a reflective street sign recognizing this award.

"We'll keep it at the post," Bolton said.

Bolton said it's "quite an honor" to be one of only 126 all-American commanders in chief.

"It's about the highest honor you can get," he said.

Bolton, 64, is a Navy veteran and served in 1968 and 1968 in Vietnam. Through the years, he has held VFW positions of chairman of the house committee, junior vice commander, senior vice commander and commander. He is a three-year trustee and vice chairman for the State VFW Convention Committee.

Bolton received a an all-American commander cap, lapel, pin, citation and name badge, and his post received a streamer, framed citation and a supply of all-American post member pins.

During the last year, Bolton single handedly became the top VFW membership recruiter in Wisconsin after personally signing up 107 members to bring the total VFW Post 1621 membership to 864--the largest in the state.

"Membership is a big deal to me," said Bolton.

He approached anybody who wore veteran's clothing, a military hat or bumper sticker plus knocked on some doors. But his secret weapon to his recruiting success was this honest, simple VFW motto:  "It's veteran helping veterans."

"Don got people to back him, and now we're an elite group at the post," said Dennis Koback, chairman of the house committee at the local post.

"It's a great honor to be able to go to any place, wear our pins that show we're an all-American post. It's an ego boost. We did it. We accomplished it because Don pushed us all," Koback said.

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