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First Memorial Day for New VFW Building

• by Sarah Teach •

vfwIn 2001, Nantucket’s Sidney and Robert Henderson VFW Post 8608 was forced out of its former Tom Nevers location due to erosion. But the wind and seas couldn’t destroy island veterans’ spirits. A new facility at 22 New South Road was 12 years in the making, but was certainly worth the wait. Lining the walls of the VFW’s barroom are tributes to veterans who gave their lives in the service of our country. You’ll see pictures of the Hendersons, the two Nantucket brothers behind the post’s name. Both were killed in action while serving in WWII in the Tank Corp. Let us remember their sacrifices this Memorial Day.

Channing Lefebvre, who serves as Service Commander of Post 8608, is always happy to give a full tour of the facility. At 5,000 square feet with two major function rooms, a wraparound bar and dining area, a gigantic industrial kitchen, and over 100 parking spaces, the VFW is a perfect function location. In addition to being available for special events, the VFW is open to the community for lunch on weekdays from noon ‘til 2 p.m. (Think BBQ spareribs, steak sandwiches, hearty stews.) The main course costs just $6; dessert and drinks–free refills included–are $1 add-ons. As for the conversation you’ll have with your bar mates? Priceless.

The most important aspect of the VFW is what it offers to its 60 members: a chance to connect with others who understand their experiences. Nantucket’s veterans have fought in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Central American Wars, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and the Global War on Terror. Located within the VFW building is the office of Veterans Services, which is run by Ralph Hardy, who served at home and abroad from 1956-62. Veterans Services exists to offer island veterans “help of any kind,” as Hardy puts it. Most people who visit Hardy are seeking help arranging medical care. Hardy says, “A lot of fellows won’t talk about problems to anyone but someone who’s been there and also served.” Hardy’s office hours are every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. At all other times, leave a message for him at 508-325-5332. If you are a veteran who does not live on Nantucket, Hardy will gladly help you find your own Veterans Services officer.

“This island is very welcoming to veterans,” says Lefebvre. After having been at war until 2010, he sees Nantucket as a peaceful haven. Lefebvre doesn’t like to talk about himself, but we pried some details out of him and believe he should be recognized for his service. During his 30 years in the Army, Lefebvre served in three foreign wars and led soldiers as a colonel. If you get the chance to meet Lefebvre (look for him next time you fly; he’s a TSA officer at Nantucket Memorial Airport), be sure to thank him for the decades that he devoted to serving our country.

Meet Lefebvre, Hardy and their comrades at Nantucket’s 2014 Memorial Day parade on Sunday, May 25. It will begin at 1 p.m. at the American Legion Hall on Washington Street; continue to the Civil War Monument on upper Main St., and on to Prospect Hill Cemetery, and finally, back to the Legion for a reception.