EAST COUNTY — As a veteran of the Vietnam era, George Johnston remembers when soldiers returned home from war only to be spit upon and jeered at airports.
He remembers how an anti-war movement targeted the men and women who’d fought to protect their country.
And now as the new post commander for Braden River VFW Post 12055, Johnston is aiming to make sure it never happens again.
“It’s about patriotism,” Johnston said. “When people are in the military, they are giving to their country — not just their opinion, but a few years of their life.”
Johnston’s personal goals are to make sure that veterans are being taken care of properly and that those in the military are treated with the respect they deserve, he said.
“I want to make sure veterans are taken care of,” he said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to relieve a veteran in stress.”
He’s already seeing that happen through the VFW’s charity work. Johnston and the fellow members of Post 12055 are visiting sick veterans, raising funds to benefit servicemen, fighting for them in the political arena and helping to create a deepened sense of patriotism amongst the community’s youth.
Although the post formed just three years ago, it already has awarded scholarships to local JROTC students, participated in patriotic ceremonies such as the dedication of the Let Freedom Ring Courtyard at Freedom Elementary School, brought in World War II veterans to speak to students and been named an All-American Post once and an all-state post twice.
“We really embraced the VFW concept,” said Johnston, a founding member. “All our money and energy goes in to helping veterans.”
The cause of veterans is dear to Johnston’s heart. His own military service ended in 1969 after seven years
with the U.S. Navy — two of which were spent on missile submarines. The GI Bill paved the way for Johnston to earn his engineering degree and embark on a successful career in the electronics industry.
He’d joined the VFW after returning from war in 1969 but wasn’t an active member until joining Post 12055 three years ago. Now as a retiree, he has time to devote to the cause, prompting his decision to replace Steve Valley as the post’s commander.
Besides increasing post membership, Johnston said he has two primary objectives. The first is to raise enough money to take the World War II and Korean War veterans in the VFW’s membership to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., as a way to honor their service. The second is to find a building from which the organization can operate.
Johnston said he continues to be grateful for the space that the American Red Cross has provided for the VFW’s monthly meetings, but eventually he’d like to have a building donated to the post so that it can expand services to younger veterans and their families by offering rooms for counseling, work stations and even a daycare, he said.
Post 12055 meets at 7 p.m., on the third Wednesday of every month, at the Red Cross’ Lakewood Ranch building, 10311 Malachite Drive.
For more information, contact Johnston at [email protected] or [email protected].
Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].