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AMVETS hoping to start post in Colfax

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  AMVETS (which stands for American Veterans) is hoping to start a post in Colfax.

Mike Hanke, a member of the council for the AMVETS chapter in Chippewa Falls, and Steve Marris of Colfax, a member of the Menomonie AMVETS post, spoke to the Colfax Village Board at the February 9 meeting.

AMVETS is one of six or seven nationally chartered veterans’ organizations, Hanke said.

The difference between AMVETS and other organizations, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is that AMVETS allows any veteran to join, no matter when they served the country, he said.

In this area, AMVETS posts are located in Menomonie, Bloomer, Chippewa Falls, Chetek, Rice Lake, and Connorsville, he noted.

“They are all around here. We see a need in Colfax,” Hanke said, adding that they have talked with members of the American Legion in Colfax.

“We are not here to compete with the Legion. We want to have a working partnership,” he said.

Some of the veterans in the Colfax area cannot join the American Legion because they were not in the service “at the right time,” Hanke said.

Hanke and Marris are proposing to call the AMVETS chapter in Colfax the AMVETS Post No. 1864, after the year Colfax was founded.

They would also like to name the post after a decorated World War II veteran from Colfax, Victor L. Olson, so that the chapter would be named the Victor L. Olson AMVETS Post No. 1864.

“We want to tie the AMVET post in Colfax to Colfax. That’s the best way to do it,” Hanke said.

The Internal Revenue Service and the federal government allows two ways to name a post after a veteran, he said.

The veteran either must be deceased or must be a Medal of Honor recipient.

Hanke said to his knowledge there are no Medal of Honor recipients from Colfax.

Staff Sergeant Victor L. Olson received three Silver Stars in combat in World War II: in December of 1942 in New Guinea; in January 1944; and the third Silver Star in New Guinea on January 28, 1944, Hanke said.

As of January 28, 1944, Staff Sergeant Victor L. Olson officially is listed as Killed in Action and Missing in Action.

The only way to name an AMVETS post after a person is to get permission from the family, Hanke said.

Unfortunately, Hanke and Marris are having difficulty tracking down Victor Olson’s family members.

Several letters from Victor Olson were published in the Colfax Messenger in 1943 and 1944. The Messenger archives also contain the obituary of Victor’s mother published in 1942. (Letters from Victor Olson and information about his family are published in a separate article in this week’s Colfax Messenger.)

Scott Gunnufson, village president, wondered about community events and the volunteer efforts of an AMVETS post.

“We are already here. We’ve been here since 2004,” Marris said.

AMVETS has given out awards to students in elementary school and middle school at Colfax and supports a variety of school-related fund-raising events. AMVETS chapters also have built 11 wheelchair ramps in Dunn County, five of them for people who are not veterans, he said.

“We are technically already here. I’m just tired of commuting to Menomonie! Seriously, I am a member of the American Legion post here. We are not competing … in Menomonie we support each other. If one group wants to do something they don’t have the manpower to do, we do it together,” Marris said.

“We would like to have a post here in Colfax. I would like to say I am a member of the Colfax post. I’ve been here 16 years. My (son) graduated from here,” he said.

As for AMVETS working with other veterans organizations, “We’re not above asking … we go to the next meeting (of the organization) and say, ‘here is what we’re doing. Would you like to get involved?’ If they say yes, great. If they say no, we go to Plan B,” Marris said.

Sometimes it is difficult for one veterans’ organization to find enough people, for example, to hold a military funeral, Hanke said.

AMVETS works with other organizations to have veterans at a military funeral or other events, he aid.

Hanke stressed that the AMVETS post would not be asking for any money from the village board.

“We are asking for a welcome to the AMVETS and for information on Victor L. Olson. We are hoping to find a relative,” he said.