A retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, Kevin Snyder has tried to take what he did in his military capacity and transfer it to his work as a member of American Legion Nash Post 140 in Kingsley, Iowa.
The post’s sergeant-at-arms and service officer, Snyder and his wife – Auxiliary Unit 140 President Tamie Snyder – came up with an idea to offer free snow plowing services to the community’s disabled veterans and the widows of veterans. It’s part of the post’s effort to stress community service while performing Buddy Checks on their members.
“We’re a small town. We’ve got a Legion post, but we didn’t have a very active post for a long time,” Kevin said. “We’re trying to reinvigorate membership to be more active. And while the post did a lot of (honor guard appearances at) funerals and such, it just wasn’t working. So, we tried to put our heads together to see what we could do.”
Snyder, when working for the Legion, has tried to duplicate his efforts on active duty. “In the unit I was in … when a guy would deploy, someone would make sure the car was running, the wife and kids had groceries, the lawn was being cut, whatever needed to be done,” he said. “We have a lot of older members … that just can’t get out and get around. And we have members who have passed away and their widows are left behind. Their kids are grown and off living their lives in another state, so these ladies are pretty much left to fend for themselves.
“So, we kind of took it as when I was going out doing Buddy Checks, it was like when I was a first sergeant. You’re looking for things. You’re looking to see if there are groceries in the refrigerator, if the lawn needs cut, if the car’s broken down or has a flat tire. That kind of stuff. And you would just go ahead and go back to your unit and make sure it got taken care of.”
After around two feet of snow hit, Kevin said those needs became pretty clear. “Since we’re out there checking In bad weather and good, our old guys and our widows – who are all Auxiliary members – we thought we’d look around and see what needs doing,” he said. “And since we’ve had these giant snowstorms out here, most of what needed doing was plowing.”
Kevin said 24 residences have been the recipients of the post’s efforts over the course of two weeks, but because of blowing winds, those residences have needed to be plowed and shoveled again multiple times.
“The problem is it takes me two days to get 24 done,” he said. “And at the end of the second day, you’ve got to start all over again because the wind hasn’t stopped here. The drifts are almost worse than the snowstorms.”
Auxiliary members field the phone calls. And there has been a trickle-down effect. Not only as the snow-plowing effort expanded to other older widows in the community who are not members of the Legion Family, another community member wanted to assist the effort but wasn’t eligible to join the Legion, so he’s joined the Sons of The American Legion at a nearby squadron (Post 140 doesn’t have an SAL squadron). But it’s created an interest in forming a squadron at the post, Kevin said.
“It’s having an impact where we’re actually having community members who want to join the post,” he said. “As soon as we get 10 guys we’ll start a squadron, because we’ve got guys who want to help. And I can’t tell you how many phone calls my wife has gotten from people wanting to donate to the Auxiliary or join the Auxiliary to be a part of this team that takes care of families.”
It’s also reinvigorated the post. “Not only is it helping our Auxiliary members and our older and disabled members, some of the guys that never come to meetings … they started showing up with shovels ready to shovel walkways and the porches and shovel out the cars,” Kevin said. “It’s had a real positive effect that way. And the guys that are showing up with shovels have full-time jobs. It’s had more of an impact than I thought – and not just on our members, but also on the people that are helping out. A lot of guys have been stepping up. And this is hard work. But it’s worked out really well.”