Archive for Thursday, November 18, 2004

VFW commander has served his post well

November 18, 2004

Bob Wiley, commander of the Basehor Veterans of Foreign Wars post, may not have started the organization, but only the naive would believe the group could have continued without his participation and leadership.

The Basehor VFW Post 11499 was founded in 1993 with approximately 42 members. Wiley, a charter member, has served as post commander for the last seven years, during which the organization's member roll has grown to nearly 100 members. In addition to serving as post commander, Wiley also has refitted a building he owns on 155th Street into the VFW's home base of operations.

"It does cut down on other things," said Wiley, citing the monthly meetings and two to three days a month the group works on community service projects. "But if it's something that you have an interest in, there's always a way to make it happen."

While his dedication to Basehor's VFW in its first 11 years is unquestionable, this week Wiley said he'll probably turn the reins over soon for another veteran to become post commander. Wiley said he would remain involved with the organization, an active, community oriented group.

"I think this will be my last year," he said. "It's time for someone else to have all the fun."

Because Wiley and the VFW are synonymous, it would be difficult to tell the story of one without mentioning the other.

Wiley, an Iowa native, was drafted into the Army in 1943 and was activated for service in January 1944. Wiley and his 71st Infantry Division traveled through France, Germany and Austria during the war and were assigned a mission that involved "chasing Germans."

It was during one of these missions in France that the carnage of war was reinforced into Wiley's psyche. Today, nearly six decades later, his memories are clear of coming across a battlefield strewn with destroyed tanks and the corpses of allies and enemies alike.

"War is an ugly game. You just don't know unless you've seen it."

After returning home from the war in May 1946, Wiley began working as a farmer in his native Iowa. He said three "unproductive seasons" in a row brought him to Basehor, where he became a carpenter.

In 1993, when area veterans began organizing the Basehor VFW, Wiley was among the last to sign on for the new group. His initial hesitance hasn't translated into a lackluster effort for either him or the VFW.

"It's kind of like any other organization that you belong to -- if you never put anything into it, if you never attend a meeting or participate, you don't get anything out of it," Wiley said.

The VFW participates in several parades and flag dedication ceremonies each year, sponsors educational programs for students and lobbies for the rights of veterans.

Wiley said the top priority for the organization is to increase its membership so that strides made by the VFW since its 1993 inception can continue.

"We'd be very happy to have (unsigned veterans) join the VFW," Wiley said. "Come and take a look.

"If you see something you like, we'd be glad to sign you up."

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