Mount Clemens native Charlie Fredericks played AMVETS Little League Baseball as a youngster, and watched the AMVETS Drum and Bugle Corps practice by marching up and down Riverside Drive.
When he came home from serving in Vietnam, it didn’t take much prompting from friends to get him to join AMVETS Post 29. It has been his home post for 50 years.
John Dowd and Fredericks, both from Clinton Township, were honored last weekend at a food-and-music party attended by about 70 vets and family members for their half century of service to the post and organization.
“We were sworn in together,” Dowd said. “From the beginning of our 50-year membership, we worked together on committees and got stuff done. Our wives got to be good friends.”
Dowd said the post itself started out in the 1950s as a log cabin owned by a doctor, Victor Wilson, on the Clinton River near the bridge at Crocker Boulevard. The vets paid $3,500 for it and, during its first year in operation, it flooded up to its ceiling. The post has its own street; the address is 1 Amvet Drive, Mount Clemens.
The post was named for Ralph E. Bennett Jr. a graduate of Mount Clemens High School and a pilot. He was killed in action in the Battle of Corregidor in the Philippines.
Any veteran with an honorable discharge may join the AMVETS.
Dowd was in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. His job was in security, investigating people’s backgrounds for security clearances.
“I was in South Carolina and Missouri and at Selfridge and Belle Isle. I managed to avoid getting shot at and considered myself lucky in those days,” Dowd said.
He worked in security at St. Joseph Hospitals, then bartended at the post until he had a stroke. He lives in an assisted living apartment and still attends post functions.
“Charlie and I put in so much time,” he said.
Both served as post commander more than once, and Dowd served the AMVETS up to the state level.
Fredericks had the job of keeping the troops fed in Vietnam for 13 months in ration distribution for the third and fourth core areas in Vietnam. He was based in Saigon.
“It takes at least seven other support people to keep one infantryman going,” Fredericks said. “I was there for the Tet Offensive in 1968, including for my birthday on Jan. 31. I had to stay an extra week because there were no planes going in and going out at that time. They wanted me to stay but I said I had a six-month-old daughter I hadn’t even seen yet. When they came to pick me up, I was sitting there with an M-16 machine gun across my lap and they grabbed my stuff and threw me on an airplane.”
He spent his working years at Chrysler Corporation and at Petitpren selling and delivering beer.
“First it was food distribution for me as a job, then it was beer,” he said.
“We are most definitely a family-oriented post, always having different activities,” Dowd said. “I can remember many years ago my daughters used to volunteer at our dinners to bus tables. There were planned summer activities for them. Even now our grandkids are still very much involved.
“From the beginning, so many men and women opened their arms and welcomed me, made me feel welcome. I always remember that and tried to pass that on to make others feel welcome. That friendly atmosphere is the hallmark of Post 29. That same helpful attitude has not changed. I’m real proud of the record we have in this community,” Dowd said.
At one point there was a dispute with the city over their property but it was resolved.
“We vets have been through a lot together,” Dowd said. “Seventy-five years and we are still going strong.”h2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-section"">
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Although the membership numbers have gone down with older vets passing away and younger vets not joining in the numbers that older vets did, there is still much being done.
The post has an active honor guard for ceremonies and funerals.
The AMVETS 29 Riders is a patriotic motorcycle group that, among numerous other projects, circulates the AMVETS Post 29 Michigan’s Fallen Military Memorial Wall, display of 279 dog tags with Michigan killed-in-action names since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our post is blessed with a strong Sons of AMVETS organization whose members are relatives of veterans,” Dowd said. “Our ‘Sons’ won a national Americanism award. We have to report all our activities to our national organization and they saw that we are one of the most active in the nation. We help a lot of veterans who don’t have a place to live, ones that need help to get their lives back together. We bring them here, maybe 30 at a time, and feed them and have a great day for them. We give them socks and toothpaste and coupon books for the canteen at the VA hospital so they can shop for themselves.
“The Riders raise money for them in their Ride for Freedom. Sometimes a vet runs into problems with their finances, like being behind in rent or needs some kind of medical help. We do our best to provide that. We have a foundation and we check out every claim to make sure they are valid, and they recommend we follow up. We don’t give a big bucket of money but we can help until they get back on their feet. It doesn’t matter if they are members of AMVETS or not. It’s just about service to fellow veterans,” Dowd said.
The post puts on dinners and raffles to earn money, or people simply make donations. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1794 makes a donation for using the building for its meetings since it sold its own hall and clubhouse on northbound Gratiot Avenue.
AMVETS, also known as American Veterans, was founded in 1944 and chartered by an act of Congress, and has more than 250,000 members.
Send news of service clubs and veterans organizations to Linda May at [email protected] or call landline 586-791-8116.
Source : https://www.macombdaily.com/2021/10/22/service-circuit-two-veterans-honored-for-50-years-of-amvets-service/1468