Elizabethton VFW post committed to veterans, community service

John Thompson • Nov 30, 2019 at 10:45 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Back in October, the Johnson City Press published a sad story about a local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (Post 9629) that returned its charter to national headquarters because its few remaining members were all in their 90s.

This is a much happier story of another local VFW post, Post 2166 in Elizabethton, that is fighting hard to remain not only relevant for its membership, but to its community and to the next generation.

For many decades after World War II, Post 2166 provided many of the leaders of the local veterans activities. But as the World War II and Korean War veterans continued to age, the need to pass the torch became clear. That torch has now been placed into the hands of Andy Wetzel.

Wetzel is a professional firefighter with the Elizabethton Fire Department, where he serves as battalion fire chief of the green shift. He is also recently retired after 27 and a half years with the United States Marines Corps Reserve. His service included two tours of Iraq.

He was also recently encouraged to take over as post commander after the previous post commander was assigned to Germany.

Wetzel is just one of several energetic and dedicated individuals who have recently joined the post and committed to improving it.

After years of deferred maintenance on the building, younger veterans are now hard at work, cleaning, painting and fixing up the post. The work is continuing, both inside and outside. That is specially important on the side facing the Watauga River.

Not only is the clearing of weeds and brush on the riverbank making for a nice park for veterans and their family to enjoy VFW outings along the river, but since the post is just downstream from historical Sycamore Shoals, where the Overmountain Men gathered for the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War, it is appropriate to maintain the historic site.

While maintaining the post property is important, Wetzel said the VFW has two main missions. The first and highest is to work for the veterans and to make sure the nation’s obligations to its veterans are met.

Wetzel said the second mission is community service, especially supporting public education.

Wetzel and other VFW members have been in the county schools frequently to honor both teachers and students with awards from the VFW for outstanding scholarship.

Some of these recognitions include teacher of the year awards. These were divided into elementary teachers (grades 1-5), middle school teachers (grades 5-8) and high school teachers.

This year, the teacher of the year awards went to: Melissa Campbell Garant of Hampton Elementary School, for the elementary teacher award; Dawn Taylor of Central Elementary, for the middle school award; and Brook Boone, of Unaka High School, for the high school teacher award.

One of the VFW student awards was the Patriot’s Pen. The award went to Erick Trejo of Keenburg Elementary.

Another student award was the Voice of Democracy. The awards went to Daleigh F. Stapp, Happy Valley High School ninth-grader; Autumn Queen, Happy Valley High School 12th-grader; and Gabriel Allen Bowman, Happy Valley High School ninth-grader.

Post 2166 is named for Lynn H. Folsom, a stubborn lieutenant who took command of his company of the 30th Division (Old Hickory) in the last days of World War I when he was the last officer standing. He was standing despite a painful wound suffered days earlier.

He continued to lead the company until he was relieved. For his performance, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. It appears the members of the 2166th remain just as stubborn about maintaining the missions of the VFW.

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