Published On: Fri, Feb 1st, 2013

‘Honoring those who served BBQ’

By: Samantha Mellman

Cpl. Burt Richards says to me, “Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class every day, and do not know who wrote it and they think Pearl Harbor is a resort in the Bahamas.”

When I arrive at Veteran’s Park in West Boca Raton on a sunshiny Friday afternoon on January 25th.  I learn that the people in attendance fought in WWII, Vietnam, Korea, and in other regions around the world. At first I was overwhelmed, who to talk to or where to start, but then I meet Corporal Burt Richards also known as the Burt “Reynolds” of Boca.

Like my own grandfather he takes me by the hand and shows me around the VFW (veteran’s of foreign wars) post like I was a celebrity. I remained humble though when Cpl. Richards introduced me to a group of ten people that are residents from a veterans community living center. He told me these men who served for our country many years ago now rely on the Veterans Administration to help them be cared for because they do not have either friends or family to rely on.

These veterans are either mentally or physically debilitated and need professional help to live comfortably on a daily basis. If it were not for the VFW post and supporters, this particular group of veterans would not be able to leave the center to enjoy a beautiful day of being in the company of others.

Cpl. Richards then takes time to introduce me to VFW VAVS representative, veteran. Lieutenant Barry Goldin who served in Vietnam in 1969.  Lt. Goldin represents the VA medical center in West Palm Beach and coordinates activities twice a month for the resident veterans.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to meet with these fella’s, they made a lot of sacrifice when they were younger and it’s a way to repay these veterans today.”

Close by was Robert Boucher a navy veteran who fought in the Korean war, I ask him ‘why is it important to help our veterans?’

He says, “It’s important because a lot of them do not have families, we become their adopted family.”

After meeting with a few of the veterans and listening to their stories I thought my job was done, but Cpl. Richards insisted I stay and have some classic BBQ fair of burgers and hotdogs. As we were waiting in line for food Cpl. Richards turned out to be a real jokester having laughs with the people around him.

To one man he said, “You’re so hunched over that when your standing you can tie your shoe laces.” He makes another joke, “What is the longest sentence that is one word?…prison!”

Cpl. Richards is not only involved with the veteran’s post, but he also participates in the Veteran’s Speaker’s Forum teaching students about American history. He teaches programs such as: Arlington Tomb, the Korean War, and the Tuskegee Airmen.

The experience I encountered that day at the park showed me how history cannot simply  be learned in textbooks or from dramatic films, but from the men and women who served our country to protect our freedoms. Seeing for myself how proud veteran’s are to have served our country made me think about how proud I am to be an American.

Learn more about Veterans of Foreign wars here:

Pictures by: Samantha Mellman

Caption: (Right) Cpl. Burt Richards (Middle) Yeoman Shore Patrol 1st class Yale Goldberg, (Left) Comm. David Richman JWV

Bottom pictures: Veteran’s and supporters join to ‘Honor those who served’ at Veteran’s Park

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