In shopping plazas, poppie gifts aid disabled veterans


Dillard Harris and Don Linsenmeyer stood outside a Glen Burnie Basics grocery store yesterday morning seeking

donations for disabled veterans, hoping the Memorial Day message isn't lost as people flock to the beach for the three-day weekend.

The two Korean War veterans swapped war stories and remembered friends who never made it home.

Mr. Linsenmeyer, 64, recalled Marine Capt. Gregory Cooke, his commander who was shot to death by an enemy soldier after unloading a boat near the front line. "I hope people remember this day for what it is," Mr. Linsenmeyer said. "It is a day for people who lost their lives in the service."

More than 140 members of VFW Post 434, chartered in the Point Pleasant community of Glen Burnie, give away the traditional, plastic red "Buddy Poppy" twice each year -- on Memorial Day and Veterans' Day. Yesterday, post members gave away

poppies and collected donations at the Basics stores in Burwood Plaza and Old Mill, the Giant Food Store at Cromwell Field and the Wal-Mart at Eastpark.

The group uses the donations to give disabled veterans -- especially those confined to hospitals -- some pocket money.

"People think they give you everything when you go into a VA hospital," said Mr. Linsenmeyer, a staff sergeant who served in a medical station in Korea. "But that's not the case. They give you the barest necessities, and you need other things to do."

Mr. Linsenmeyer said his group raised $1,100 last year, all of it going into the pockets of hospitalized veterans, who used the money to buy snacks and toiletries.

Mr. Harris, 61, said the spirit of Memorial Day isn't lost, though it has become the unofficial start of the summer season and the media hype of Ocean City and other beaches. "Some of it goes by the wayside," he said. "But we still have parades and things. People are right generous."

But times have changed. None of the three members outside the Basics yesterday would discuss their feelings on how respect for the military has changed and President Clinton's recent public run-ins with the Pentagon and his draft record during Vietnam.

"There are a lot of things that I could say that I better not say," Mr. Harris said. But he warned that the United States must choose its conflicts carefully.

"I know we are the world power, but I don't think a lot of small countries like us telling them what to do," he said.

Mr. Linsenmeyer said he was proud to join the Marine Corps when war broke out in Korea. "Nobody drafted me," he said.

He left for Korea with 637 other Marines from Fort McHenry. All but 11 returned. One who did, Frank McMonegal, of Glen Burnie, joined the group at Basics.

Mr. Linsenmeyer and Mr. McMonegal were nearly pinned down by a group of Chinese soldiers near a Korean river 43 years ago. "We had one tank, and if it wasn't for that tank, I don't think we would have made it back," Mr. Linsenmeyer said. "The tank saved Frank's life."

The two men, both Glen Burnie residents, met 25 years ago when Post 434 was formed. It wasn't until two years ago, they said, that they learned they had been in the same harrowing place four decades ago.

"We figure this is real good," Mr. Harris said of the fund-raising effort. "We get a good feeling out of giving help to someone who really needs help."

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