ELKHART — Members of an honored veterans group are seeking to grow their organization.
The Elkhart Area Marine Corps League has been in existence since 2007 and currently consists of mostly senior veterans from the area.
Marine and member of the league Joe Reed said the group has struggled to gain members since its inception, despite the usually high number of Marines living in Elkhart County compared to the surrounding counties.
He said, for a lot of Marines, once they leave the service they move on with daily life.
“Like a lot of organizations, once you leave, your life takes a different direction and you move on, or maybe conflict weighs heavy on you and you don’t want to go back and sit with a bunch of Marines that have been in conflict,” he said.
Reed, a retired police officer injured in the line of duty, found comradery in the league. He was one of the founding members of the Elkhart Area Marine Corps League.
Several of the men within the league have met men they served with at the meetings.
“That’s what we hope for,” he said of the league, which has a mission that includes strengthening relationships among veterans, those currently serving and their families.
Other aspects of their mission statement are to foster the ideals of Americanism and patriotic volunteerism.
“We reach outside of our meetings,” he said. “We try to put together fundraisers for returning veterans that need help, the stand downs, which is all branches, just anything to give them a push forward.”
They’re also seeking Navy corpsman and chaplains interested in joining.
During the first meeting of the year, the Elkhart Area Marine Corps League also passed out awards to several Marines.
Brad Ulick, commandant of the Elkhart Marine Corps League, was given a special award by state level Marine Corps League Commandant Jim Adkinson. Ulick was awarded the Silver Citizen award.
Ed Hiar was awarded the Distinguished Service Bronze award, and Gene DeMorrow was given the Distinguished Citizen Bronze award.
Judy Strickel was named Associate of the Year and Norm Heaton was named Marine of the Year. Karla Schwartz was awarded the Community Service Appreciation Certificate.