The VFW Auxiliary serves home cooking to local veterans

It’s the sweet aroma that hits you first, followed by the sight of busy chefs turning potential chaos into a delectable breakfast.

Imagine Thanksgiving morning, when the kitchen is full of busy people tossing and turning in a labor of love, working to prepare food that brings back childhood memories of holiday gatherings.

And for those who have spent their vacations sailing the seas or moving through jungles or across sandy terrain, it brings thoughts of home and a delicious respite from life away from home and loved ones.

It’s more than the biscuits and gravy breakfast prepared by members of the VFW Auxiliary in the Plains Hall kitchen, it’s an act of love and tremendous gratitude to those who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

And that is much appreciated.

“It’s the best breakfast around,” said veteran Dan Johnson, who was among the steady stream of veterans, their families and non-veterans who checked into the VFW Saturday for a hearty breakfast and some camaraderie with fellow veterans. “It’s more than a meal, it’s a social gathering, an opportunity to come and talk to other veterans. A chance to get out and see other people.

Johnson’s comments would qualify as music to the ears of the half-dozen or so members of the Auxiliary, who gather typically once a month and begin preparations for the breakfast. Two members begin the process the night before the event, cooking the sausage that produces the sweet juice and the pork chunks that form the sauce, the backbone of the popular dish.

Linda Barnes, an auxiliary member for the past several years, is generally credited with formulating the idea of ​​”feeding the troops” based on the work she did years ago while a member of a metal fabrication/construction crew in Alaska.

“I had experience doing this sort of thing when I cooked breakfast (and other meals) for the workers on the team I was a part of,” Barnes said as he stirred a large aluminum pot filled with boiling sauce. “It was a pleasure and a break for the crew members who worked so hard and it brought us all together.”

The aid society, which currently has 115 members in the Plains area and is open to anyone who has a family member who has served in the military, is putting on the breakfast as part of its fundraising efforts for other things, including meals and their popular Christmas box program. Auxiliary member Cindy Gray said the breakfast usually draws about 90 people, who pay $9 for a generous portion of biscuits, gravy and a large portion of scrambled eggs.

“It’s all about them,” Gray said, referring to the veterans who started showing up at 7:30 last Saturday morning despite snow-covered roads in the area. “We get up early and work hard for the veterans, that’s all.”

Plains veteran Ed Farmer, who served in Vietnam, said the breakfast speaks volumes for the hard work members of the Auxiliaries have put in to make it happen.

“There may not be many breakfast options in the Plains,” Farmer said. “But it’s the best breakfast around and much appreciated.”

All of the cooks volunteer to prepare the breakfast, which is made possible by the support the Auxiliary receives from the VFW and the Plains community.

“It’s amazing how much support we get from the community,” said Auxiliary member Deb Ragan as she cracked and prepared the dozens of eggs used to make the meal. “Everyone is coming together to support this. Those of us putting together the breakfast have to get up early on Saturday morning, but no one complains because it’s for the vets. This is one way we can give back to vets.”

Gray said more than 15 dozen eggs are used as part of the dish, which typically costs about $300 to assemble. She said the local grocery store, McGowan Grocery, has been a big part of the event’s success for the past six years.

“McGowan’s works with us and helps us a lot,” said Gray, who lost his brother in combat in Vietnam. “They (McGowan’s) treat us very well and help us with the costs involved.”

Gray said the group typically has two such events a month and cited the growth and expansion of the Christmas Box Program, which sends gift boxes of staples and goodies to area servicemen and women stationed across the country and the world.

“The Christmas Box program is one of the main beneficiaries of an event like this,” she said. “This program has grown and with it costs such as postage have also increased a lot.”

Becky Pauley, who along with Pat Farmer worked the hall’s greetings and payouts table, said the group is doing what it can to get the word out about the usually once-a-month breakfasts.

“Facebook is usually a pretty good way to get the word out about the breakfasts,” she said as she posted a notice to get people to the breakfast gathering.

Pauley echoed the thoughts of her fellow volunteers when asked what motivated the group to organize such an event.

“We do it because we love it,” she said. “This is for them.”



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