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Towson Elks share Thanksgiving cheer with area veterans

Annual dinner seen as way to honor past service

By Katie V. Jones

4:01 PM EST, November 21, 2011

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Henry Behringer, 87, and Robert Hood, 93, were engaged in a friendly disagreement.

Both Army veterans of World War II, the two men sat across the table, shaking their heads, and eyeing each other. Hood had served in France — preparing airfields for the Americans in World War II, and recounted his memories of those days.

But the two disagreed about some of the details of the allied liberation of France. Neither one would bend, but that was OK, according to Behringer.

After all, their heated discussion was happening over a friendly holiday meal. When it was time for pie, a truce was reached.

"We disagree on one thing, but hey, he's a soldier," Behringer shrugged. And in the end, he said, the details didn't matter.

"All soldiers are the same," he said. "We went in and made the best of it."

At a table near Behringer and Hood, Charles Johnson, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, looked around smiling.

"This is most fantastic," he said. "I appreciate it. People are still thinking of us. It feels good to be around (fellow veterans)."

Fifty-five veterans, including their aides, enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast a week early at Elks Lodge 469 in Towson on Nov. 17. The annual dinner has been going on for years and is always a popular event, organizers said.

"It's fun," said Devin Foggo, the lodge's exalted ruler. He said members turn out in droves to help with the event, which is designed to make sure the veterans, many of whom are from VA hospitals, start the holidays in a cheery way.

"We often have more volunteers than room to put them in our small kitchen," he said.

Four 10-pound turkey breasts, 30 pounds of baked ham, 20 pounds of mashed potatoes, 15 pounds of string beans and seven pies were cooked, cut and served in the lodge's small kitchen, according to Joe Lancaster, chair of the veterans event and kitchen organizer.

"We know food," Lancaster said.

On the cold night, the veterans arrived by buses from local veterans hospitals. They were ushered into the warmth of the 100-year-old Elks building, where volunteers bustled around, serving drinks and food, all the while smiling and chatting.

"We have a blast doing it," said Jim Bullington, chaplain of the lodge. "The hardest thing is getting them here."

Bingo, complete with cash prizes, was held once the plates were cleared.

This was Prince Wilson's second time attending. The Vietnam veteran was pleased.

"It was really good," Wilson said. "I enjoyed myself last year and this year."

"This is what we're all about," Foggo said, as he looked over the crowded room. "It's exciting for us."