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Free lunch offered for vets at local Elks Lodge

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By Don Pace

A 10-foot banner pinned to the wall of the Elks Lodge 408 welcomed veterans to a mid-day lunch on Sunday in appreciation for the sacrifices they have made for their country. The meal included spaghetti, garlic bread and all the fixings.

Elks leader Angela Sanchez said this is the third year her organization has been honoring veterans with a free lunch. She said through the year, Elks members sponsor many events to help veterans and their families.

“We’re going to make some gift baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas for families of deployed soldiers. We also team up with Vida Encantada (nursing home) to send gifts to the troops who are serving overseas, and we donate to the national organization’s veterans fund,” Sanchez said.

Veterans Committee Chairman Gilbert Gallegos said phone cards were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan recently so that soldiers could keep in touch with their families.     

Lodge 408 received a trophy case from the 1st Expeditionary Red Horse Military Troop containing an American flag that had flown over Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan, along with a letter thanking the lodge for sending them phone cards.

The letter read in part, “We at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, would like to sincerely thank you for donating the phone cards we received. They definitely have helped us stay in touch with our families, and kept smiles on our faces. It’s nice to see organizations from back home thinking of us and what we are doing for our great nation overseas. Your generosity and thoughts have lifted morale and kept us going from day to day,” reads the letter from the 1st Expeditionary Red Horse Group, Vehicle Maintenance Shop.

Gallegos said the Elks also watch out for the families of local military men and women serving with the 720th Transportation Company.

“We are here to help any families of the 720th that may need assistance when the unit is deployed,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said the Elks are working with state Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocaté, to get flag poles at local cemeteries.

“We try to put little flags at each veteran’s gravesite, but there are so many veterans, it is almost impossible to do,” Gonzales said.

Gallegos said when it comes to helping veterans, the Elks are always willing and able to help in any way they can.

“We work on any idea or plea for help. If somebody is in distress, we have an open book. We’re here to help any veteran who needs help,” Gallegos said.

The next fundraiser, a special bingo, will benefit both veterans and cerebral palsy charities, and will be held Nov. 14 at the Elks Lodge at 2305 Collins Drive.