INDIAN TRAIL – When Donn Kegal assumes command of James B Crump VFW Post 2423 on June 27, his two main focuses will be preventing veteran suicides and helping the community learn more about military service through the stories of veterans.
Kegal, who lives in Waxhaw, served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and a squadron commander of a combat flying unit in Desert Storm. He retired from the military after a 30-year career and became a self-employed financial advisor.
In addition to supporting VFW national programs and projects, Kegal is focused on preventing veteran suicides and believes interpersonal relationships found in veterans organizations like the VFW are important in saving lives.
He said some veterans, especially if they’ve had reoccurring tours, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, are tense under stress and have difficulty trusting others.
“When you’re in the service, you’re always on guard, so to speak, and that has an emotional toll on an individual,” Kegal said. “I don’t care who you are, how much of a man you are, how much of a woman you are or how much training you’ve had.”
A good way to help veterans with these issues is to be around other veterans. Kegal said finding fellowship in the VFW can help ease that pain and stress and also gets veterans involved in their community.
The Honor Guard at Post 2423 is one example of service to the community. The group assists veterans’ families after the loss of a loved one, marches in parades, teaches grade school children about flag etiquette and conducts flag ceremonies at churches and public events. The post also has an active auxiliary.
A longtime member of the VFW in Florida, Virginia and Indian Trail, Kegal knows firsthand how impactful involvement in the organization can be. He called the VFW a network of support and, to some extend, an “extended family.”
“The fellowship with people that had similar experiences is healthy from a social standpoint,” he said. “It’s those friendships you make and you can make them in your local community by being a part of the VFW.”
As commander, Kegal also plans to start a monthly military history forum, which will be open to the public, to educate area youth, young adults and parents on veteran experiences in the military. Veterans can explain how their service allowed them to gain trade skills, work as a team and learn other skills employers appreciate. He also wants to include the history of the American flag and saluting in the forums.
Kegal said it can be healing for veterans to talk about their time in the service, but many do not. He hopes the forums help them open up and release the emotions they’ve been holding inside.
“The American people have a lot of respect for our military today, but they have little understanding of what life is like while you serve your country,” Kegal said. “Perhaps these panel-type meetings can help create a better understanding of military history and encourage young adults to consider service.”
INFOBOX: Learn more
Visit www.vfw2423.org or stop by James B. Crump VFW Post 2423 at 100 VFW Lane, Indian Trail to learn about the benefits of membership and how they support the community. Stay connected by liking Post 2423 on Facebook.