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Veterans of Foreign Wars: Harold Baggenstoss Post seeks new home

Travelers on U.S. Highway 2 through Wilton drive by the Git-R-Dun Saloon, a business that has been dormant since last year.

About a month ago, Wilton Mayor Shelly Baker found inspiration in the defunct bar. It could be an attractive addition to Wilton, the site for community suppers, bingo, Christmas programs and other such activities.

She did some research and found the mortgage holder, First National Bank of Waupac, Wis. She also discovered that the foreclosure date for the mortgage is Sept. 3.

Baker said she believes the facility could get back into business and become an improvement to her city. She contacted members of the Harold Baggenstoss Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1260 and suggested they look into the potential of the building as their Post Home.

"I think with the VFW coming in - they have such a good name and such a good reputation, and they don't have a home," Baker said. "It's our intention to make an offer."

She said she has notified the bank of their intention.

Baker and members of Post 1260 met with Tim Flathers of the Headwaters Regional Development Commission Friday to discuss the feasibility of acquiring the property.

"We're going to do what we can to help," said Flathers. "My gut sense on this is you guys have a really good case to make."

Flathers advised the veterans to figure out the total cost of the project before applying for any grants. He said they should also outline their fundraising plans and how they expect to maintain the operation once the facility is purchased and renovated.

Ninth District VFW Commander Bruce Malterud, a Vietnam veteran, said Post 1260 had a Post Home in Bemidji until loss of interest and mismanagement of gambling funds caused it to close. Post 1260 currently meets at the American Legion in Bemidji. However, he said the building fund contains about $10,000. Post 1260 is also revitalized and now up to about 400 members, he said.

Baker said the people of Wilton are also committed to the project and have allocated $1,000 toward purchase of the property.

Post 1260 members said their vision for their Post Home is for a family-centered gathering place, not just a bar. It would also be a resource for veterans to socialize, bond and make contacts concerning difficulties they may have in adjusting to life after service.

"I think this club should be geared so they have a place, not just for a bar atmosphere, but for family and to discuss issues," said Clare Kapphan, Post 1260 adjutant and Korean War veteran. "I think as a group, we can help each other because we have something in common."

"A vast majority don't know the benefits they've earned," said Jim Miller, Post 1260 senior vice commander and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

Kapphan said the facility can serve as a hub where service men and women can discuss complex veterans' issues.

Miller emphasized that the Post Home should be welcoming to female veterans, who now make up about 20 percent of United States armed forces.

Baker added that the Post Home could also serve as a community center for Wilton. The 2.9-acre lot is already laid out with a baseball field, and the building contains 10,000 square feet.

Post 1260 members cited the community services they provide, including youth hockey and baseball programs, serving dinners to veterans in retirement homes and care centers, sponsoring blood donation programs, school Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen writing programs, the Buddy Poppy days, Junior ROTC and color guards for parades and Memorial Day.

"We are doing most of these programs now out of our briefcases," said Bruce Holden, Post 1260 commander and Vietnam veteran.

He added that a cup of coffee and a chance to talk with other veterans and maybe share some laughter can sometimes be more help than medication to a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bob Vande Venter, Post 1260 activities committee chairman and Vietnam veteran, said they plan raffles and other fundraisers, as well as applications for grants to purchase and renovate the property.