Dee Denison, whose father and husband both served careers in the military, doesn’t think Brownwood is patriotic enough. But it’s not because she hasn’t been trying.
“I don’t think there’s enough patriotism in Brownwood,” Denison said as she and her husband, Tom, made preparations for today’s Memorial Day ceremony at Eastlawn Memorial Park. “You ask children what Memorial Day means, and they’ll say it’s a time to have a picnic. They don’t teach patriotism like they did when I was in school.”
A native of Grand Prairie, Denison lived in several states growing up since her father’s career was in the U.S. Navy. She was married to her husband in 1956 just as he completed basic training, and followed him to assignments in Arkansas, Louisiana, Japan and Germany. When Tom was sent to Vietnam, however, she stayed in the United States. Tom retired in 1972, and they moved to his home — Brownwood.
“I really didn’t have a hometown, growing up in a military family, but Tom did,” Denison said.
That’s when Tom took a job managing the canteen at VFW Post 3278, and the two of them have since become synonymous with the post and its auxiliary.
Dee has been president of its auxiliary 14 times, including the past 10 years. She’s been elected again to serve a new year beginning in July.
“They tell me, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” she said with a laugh. “But I don’t know. We need to get some young folks in here.”
Membership in the VFW Post and Auxiliary has dwindled as World War II veterans age, Denison said, but the organization is concentrating on young member recruitment.
The VFW Post and Auxiliary are active in numerous service projects, almost too many for Denison to list off the top of her head. She referred to plaques the posts have received for members’ involvement to remind her of many of them.
“We’re more than just a bar out here,” she said. “Actually, I don’t drink myself. We do a lot of public service. We do a lot more than most people know.”
One of the post’s major benevolences is its national home for widows and orphans in Eaton Rapids, Mich. The facility holds various small cottages on its 600-acre site, and the post here is a supporter of the Texas Home.
One of its members was visiting recently when a police officer visited, Denison said. The officer said he was one of 11 siblings who had been placed at the home, and he said without it, he was certain he would be on the opposite side of the law today.
“It’s gratifying to know you’re supporting that,” Denison said.
The Auxiliary will be handing out Buddy Poppies at today’s Memorial Day service, and donations will support the needs of disabled veterans.
Auxiliary members also volunteer at veterans hospitals and clinics, such as clinic in Brownwood, and also supports cancer assistance and research. The national Voice of Democracy Scholarship program offers college assistance of up to $30,000 to eligible students, and residents of Mason and Priddy have received awards in that program, Denison said.
The Auxiliary also works with rehabilitation and children’s bicycle safety.
It holds programs and banquets that recognize nurses as well as community leaders — teachers, police officers and public servants — for their contributions.
“We bought a whole bunch of Girl Scout Cookies last year and sent them to local service men and women,” Denison said. “We’ll be boxing those up again this year, too.”
Denison recalls when the armed forces came home after serving in Vietnam and were met with an unappreciative reception. She still sees such an attitude too many times today.
“I have seen so many veterans, especially after Vietnam, not being treated so well,” Denison said. “I think people ought to go up to veterans and tell them they appreciate what they’ve done. They need to tell anyone in uniform the same thing. I know I do that.”