Vietnam veteran Ron Conley, post commander of Greenfield VFW Post 4736, said that his local VFW post came into being about the time he was being discharged from the U.S. Navy some 50 years ago.
The national Veterans of Foreign Wars recognized the efforts of the Greenfield post in a Golden Anniversary Award Citation, formally acknowledging 50 years of “outstanding service to the community, veterans and to the nation.”
It was on June 12, 1969 at the height of the war in Southeast Asia that the Greenfield post came into existence, though not at itscurrent location on East Jefferson Street next door to a Subway deli.
“It used to be across the bridge at one time,” Conley said. “You went across the bridge and down over a hill where there used to be a house, but that was before my time. When I started it was right here.”
Now 73 years old, the Jackson County native said he will enter his 20th year as post commander in July and that this is the second time he had served in the capacity, taking time out for fellow veteran Mike Erskin, who served a brief two-year term until Conley returned as commander.
Conley entered the Navy in 1965, serving first as a boiler technician before becoming a cook on the USS Davis, a destroyer escort stationed off the coast of Vietnam.
“Some days I’d have to bake 240 loaves of bread, in addition to pies, cakes and donuts,” he said. “We had a crew of 270 enlisted men plus the officers, and those guys loved to eat.”
Like most military cooks, he said he was known to improvise on some of the recipes, which caught the ire of some higher ranking officers, who told him he was going to make the crew sick if he didn’t stick to the “mil-spec,” or military specifications of the recipe.
“I told him my mother had 16 kids,” he said, “and she’s the one who taught me to cook and she never made any of us sick.”
His intentions of making a career out of the military were cut short following a near fatal automobile accident in 1968 when he was home on leave.
He said he and his brother were out late at night and while on their way to pick up his sister, he went to sleep behind the wheel and crashed into a tree, throwing him through the windshield, which resulted nearly a year stay in a hospital.
Doctors told him he could stay in the Navy if he wanted to re-enlist, but that he would be in a reduced duty capacity after recovering from his injuries. He said he decided to return home and get on with his life, which these days consists of working on a 2,500-acre farm near Greenfield owned by Byron Dawson.
Of the many community endeavors his post is involved in, he said the one that he’s the most proud of are the scholarships it has provided over the years to further the education of Greenfield area students.
He said that this year alone, $24,000 in first-year scholarships were awarded to 20 students with the top four receiving $2,000 each.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the nation’s largest and oldest major war veteran’s organization, with Conley adding that Chillicothe VFW Post 108 reached the 100-year mark last month.
Founded in 1899, the VFW was chartered by Congress and is comprised entirely of eligible veterans and military service members from active, guard and reserve forces, with the organization adding that their ranks number 1.6 million members in 6,200 posts worldwide.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.