Barrington-area organization helps past, present and future veterans
When Tom Gilder returned from a year fighting in Vietnam in the summer of 1968, he was told to pack up his Army uniform and get into civilian clothes right away.
"Basically, to hide the fact that I served," recalled Gilder.
Unlike 50 years ago, returning soldiers are treated today with respect and appreciation, but challenges remain.
That's where Gilder and The Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores, a nonprofit group of about 155 people, come in.
Part of the group's mission is to foster patriotism, so the group provides people for military color guards in communities in Lake and McHenry counties and hosts public ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day that draw hundreds.
Behind the scenes, the group also raises money through fundraisers and donations to give grants to organizations such as TLS Veterans of McHenry County, which operates a transitional living program in Hebron.
"We're committed to working this way so other organizations with a singular focus can do a better job," said Gilder, president of the group for the last two years. "The effects on vets who have been in combat live on."
The organization also helps: the Military Officers Association of America scholarship fund, the USO near North Chicago, the Disabled American Veterans branch in Round Lake, the BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center in Harvard, and the Lutheran Church Charities Kare 9 unit, which provides therapeutic dogs.
Group members this week also wrapped up their annual drive collecting some 1,500 pounds of toiletries, socks, and other items for Operation Support Our Troops of America to be sent to deployed personnel.
"This isn't a done deal. There are still people being asked to serve where simple things like that aren't easy to get," Gilder said.
The Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores board also nominated Gilder for the "Honor 200 Award" through Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs as part of the state's upcoming bicentennial celebration in December.
"People respect what we do. We're recognized as an organization," Gilder said. "We look at it as a responsibility."
• Do you know of veterans helping other veterans, doing good things for their community or who have an interesting story to tell? Share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.