To those veterans of the U.S. military who fought in foreign wars, gathering in groups is a way they stay mentally healthy and see a bright future with friends that served like them.
South Florida veterans weren’t able to hold Memorial Day services or POW remembrance ceremonies in-person in 2020.
Now, there’s hope because their in-person group meetings are starting up again.
The Korean War Veterans Association in Delray Beach met for the first time on Sunday April 10th inside the Shirley and Barton Weisman Delray Community Center.
Korean War Veteran Herb Dareff called getting back to this point a battle.
“Wearing a mask, not shaking hands, not hugging, wearing gloves, wiping. To me that was a war and we’re now just coming out of it,” said Dareff.
Dareff and chapter commander Neil Mitchell are relieved a COVID-19 vaccine has opened the door for them to head indoors.
“We’re going to make it. I have no doubt we’re going to make it. I’m positive,” said Dareff.
It’s an in-person group meeting bond needed to thrive.
Just ask Jerry Kline of the Vietnam War Veterans of America.
“It’s a comradery we had in the military that transcends the 50 plus years that Vietnam ended for both of us,” said Kline.
Kline and fellow Vietnam Vet Marc Goodell plan to meet with their whole Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 25 indoors at the beginning of May in West Palm Beach.
“We’re used to hanging out afterward and just talking and we can’t do that,” said Godell.
They say a vaccine has made members feel safer about indoor meetings.
Dareff and Mitchell find a way to laugh about not using zoom or other virtual means for their meetings during the pandemic.
“No, I don’t think most of us are computer literate,” said Dareff.
Both groups say it’s easy to laugh now, because they’re seeing hope.
“Vietnam veterans have a very unique relationship. It is a brotherhood and a sisterhood and maintaining the contact is the way we keep ourselves pumped up,” said Godell.