Mason City’s Community Chapel (Tonica at Chestnut) has a program that honors area veterans—not with an award or ceremony but by providing a regular opportunity for those who have served our country to gather with others who share those memorable experiences.
Every Thursday morning volunteers come into the church early to make coffee and bring in pastries and donuts. At 8:00 a.m. the place is turned over to the ex-servicemen for a couple hours.
A typical Thursday morning found Mayor Pete Bowers enjoying coffee with a handful of his fellow vets. Bowers has a long service record that includes time in the Navy, the National Guard, and the National Guard Reserves.
“I come in to listen to these guys tell their stories,” Bowers says. “They’ve got some good ones. Once our veterans are gone, their stories are gone.
“I was down at the school recently to give Nash Shawgo an award for his volunteerism. I’d like to see more veterans volunteering. It would be great to have these guys teach the kids what we went through in WWII, Korea, etc.
“Freedom isn’t free,” Bowers says. “It takes a lot of people working to keep freedom here in our country.”
“Too many people think the government owes them a living,” Brian Lynn chimes in. “The government is too big and too nosy.” This gets some heads nodding and starts a conversation that soon branches off. Meanwhile, John Skaggs – six years in the National Guard and a member of the Community Chapel – makes regular runs to the kitchen to refill coffee cups.
Skaggs says the church has been hosting this get-together for close to two years, and he often sees thirty or more vets come by on a Thursday.
There is a stir as Donald Nannen walks in, long years hampering the World War II vet as he walks with effort to a seat. He is a popular character with this group that doesn’t mind his gruffness. Asked what he did in the Army, Nannen waves the question away. “Chased girls, mostly,” he says.
“Military service changes a person,” Bowers says of the common bond they share. “It teaches respect, for one thing.”
“You grow up fast when those seargants get you,” Skaggs agrees.
“We ought to bring back the draft,” Lynn says. “Mandatory 2 year service, let them see the world and learn to live on their own.” This starts another debate.
The Community Chapel is proud to offer this coffee klatch Thursdays at 8:00 a.m. as a way to thank and honor area veterans, and invites any ex-service member to take part.
For more on local news and events read the Mason City Banner Times.