Vietnam vet new VFW post commander
There was a time when Fred Box didn't believe he'd be fortunate enough to escape the battlefields of southeast Asia, let alone return home one day to serve his fellow community members in Basehor.
But providence shined on Box, a lifelong Basehor resident, when he returned home injured -- but alive -- from a second tour of duty in Vietnam. It did once again Thursday, April 28, when he was elected commander of Basehor Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11499.
Box, a former post chaplain and vice commander, narrowly defeated fellow VFW comrade Wes Neu, 19 to 13. He will be sworn-in May 26 and will replace Bob Wiley, post commander since 1997.
"I just felt like I had something to offer the VFW with my military background," Box said.
Box was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device in 1969 for heroic acts during "military operations against a hostile force," according to the military announcement. Recognition for his bravery came after Box, who had already served in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966, came back three years later in place of his brother, helped curb a Viet Cong ambush and assisted in the evacuation of wounded soldiers.
Five soldiers were killed and seven wounded, including Box, in the firefight. Despite suffering from a gunshot wound to the back and other injuries from explosions, Box radioed for support and held off the enemy until help could arrive.
Box said he was lucky to return home alive. He said many did not return from Vietnam and many other wars, and it's up to organizations like his to keep their sacrifices alive in the public's mind, as well as celebrate their service.
Box said he's planning to establish a full funeral detail, complimented by rifle salutes and bugles, for the VFW during the memorial services of local veterans. He also hopes to field a "top-notch" color guard for parades and other public displays.
Later this month, Box and the VFW will place flags on the graves of military veterans on Memorial Day at the Glenwood Cemetery. The organization will also donate a flagpole to the cemetery, the new commander said.
The Basehor VFW post was founded in 1993 with 42 members. Since then, the organization's member roll has grown to nearly 100 veterans. It has become one of the most visible and active civic organizations in the city.
Group members participate in several parades and flag dedication ceremonies, sponsor educational programs for students and lobby for the rights of veterans.