Veterans lend a helping hand

By LISA STARK

Members of Post 8108, from left: Commander Steve Spears, wife Jami, Tracy Miller, Dianna Scott and Robert “Blue” Miller. Lisa Stark photos.

Members of Post 8108, from left: Commander Steve Spears, wife Jami, Tracy Miller, Dianna Scott and Robert “Blue” Miller. Lisa Stark photos.

Last week the members of the Riverview VFW (nicknamed “The River Rats”) discovered that pulling together as a team can work miracles right in their own backyard.

Eight members of Post 8108 joined forces to help World War II veteran Edward Sellers, who lives a half-mile from the post, restore his home in Riverview by providing much-needed repairs.

“His toilet was literally collapsing through the floor,” said Post Commander Steve Spears, describing how the elderly disabled veteran, unable to afford costly repairs to his bathroom, resorted to using a camping toilet instead.

Known around the Riverview VFW as “Smiley,” Sellers couldn’t have been more pleased with the bathroom restoration engineered by Mike Fish and Terry Johnson, who ripped out the rotting floor and replaced it with new solid materal.

“I am proud of the support we received on this project,” said Spears, “and I’m utterly amazed at the dedication I saw from our veterans this week.” Spears, who became the new Commander of the Riverview Post in July, is a nine-year Marine veteran. He met Jami, his wife of 25 years and also a Marine veteran, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where the pair was stationed.

Mike Fish, left, Edward “Smiley” Sellers and Terry Johnson.

Mike Fish, left, Edward “Smiley” Sellers and Terry Johnson.

“Mike and Terry are the true heroes, and the backbone to this operation,” said Spears. “Without them, this couldn’t have happened.”

Mike Fish, a Gulf War veteran and construction worker by trade, applied his professional expertise to install new floor joists and solid wood planks to make Smiley’s bathroom safe and usable again. Terry Johnson, an Air Force veteran with mechanical background working on fighter jets, contributed the necessary plumbing and mechanical fixtures to the project.

In addition to the indoor repairs, crew members also set to work trimming trees, clearing brush and doing a much-needed overall cleanup of Seller’s property.

“The place was overgrown with vines and dead trees,” said Lori Yeago, president of the Women’s Auxiliary, who delved into some rather heavy yardwork, sprucing up the property considerably.

The Florida Veterans of Foreign Wars has a long tradition of serving veterans, military families and their local communities. The Riverview Post is no exception, said Spears. Each month they hold fundraisers and special projects to benefit the community, including a clothes drive for the Fisher House, regular visits to the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, Bingo fundraisers and a yearly school supply drive, to name a few.

Lori Yeago helps to trim trees on Sellers’ property.

Lori Yeago helps to trim trees on Sellers’ property.

Spears said the Riverview Post is also very much involved in the Hillsborough County Veterans Council, whose mission is to act as a liaison between county government and veterans organizations on issues affecting veterans and their families.

The Council addresses veteran problems that can’t be resolved through the normal governmental agencies. The Council educates veterans on what organizations are available to them, and holds regular events to honor veterans and POWs, including monthly services at the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum on U.S. 301 N. in Tampa.

This year, Spears said, Post 8108 has been approached by CENTCOM (Central Command) at MacDill Air Force Base, requesting help with their annual picnic and Veterans Day Parade. “We’re excited by this opportunity to help out,” he said, “and we’re up for the challenge.”

VFW Post 8108 is at 7504 Riverview Drive in Riverview. For more information, go to myvfw.org/fl/post8108 or call 813-671-9845.

 

 

Terry Johnson stands in the gaping hole left by rotting floorboards in Sellers' bathroom.

Terry Johnson stands in the gaping hole left by rotting floorboards in Sellers’ bathroom.

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