MANCHESTER - Veteran's Day is a time to celebrate both the old and young who served their country. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6471 in Manchester is a place where all who served can come together, reminisce and share a few laughs.

Rein Tofer, who served in the Army special forces during the Cold War and the Korean War and is the current post commander, said the VFW has changed over the years.

"It's changing more towards the family and trying to aid and support the Veterans," he said. "It's going to change [with newer veterans, like those that served in Iraq and Afghanistan]...it takes a few years before the new vets come in as members.

At left, Helen Karpi Vail, and Helen Tasker Doxsee, were two veterans who took part in the observances Monday at the VFW post.
At left, Helen Karpi Vail, and Helen Tasker Doxsee, were two veterans who took part in the observances Monday at the VFW post. (Anna Boarini photos)
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Tofer said the post is now using money raised from the canteen and different ticket drives to support the Veterans Home in Bennington, as well as to sponsor 10 scholarships for local students.

The post was founded in 1946 and helped welcome home veterans returning from World War II. On Monday, Nov. 11, Veteran's Day, the VFW held a luncheon and wreath laying ceremony to celebrate. One of the veterans present was Manchester native Donald Cherbonneau. At just 18 years-old in 1945, he was drafted into the Army and sent to Fort Knox in Kentucky for basic training. After graduating from basic, he was sent to Japan and worked as a clerk typist in the same building as General Douglas MacArthur for two years.


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"Thank God I loved typing, because it sure got me a good job over there," he said. "I had a nice place to sleep, nice place to eat. It was a nice place to work."

Every day on his way into work, Cherbonneau said about 200 people would line up outside headquarters and wait for MacArthur to show up. One day in particular, as Cherbonneau and his friends were taking pictures, a man came up to the general and tried to strike MacArthur with a large sword. Cherbonneau said the two soldiers who acted as MacArthur's body guard stopped the man.

"I said to my mother, if you see something in the paper about General MacArthur, a Japanese man and a sword, let me know," he said. "She said later in the paper, they wrote that there was a man presenting General MacArthur with a sword. Yeah, he was presenting it all right." Cherbonneau joined the VFW right after he returned. In the first few years of the post, he said the post would have drawings for lifetime memberships; Cherbonneau was lucky enough to get one.

Helen Karpi Vail and Helen Tasker Doxsee are both World War II veterans who attended the Veteran's Day luncheon and wreath laying ceremony, cannot join the VFW because women were not allowed to serve outside the United States during the war.

Steve Weeks plays "Taps" during the Veterans Day observances at the Manchester VFW post.
Steve Weeks plays "Taps" during the Veterans Day observances at the Manchester VFW post. (Andrew McKeever Photo)
Vail worked as a corpsman, a position similar to a nurse, in the Navy and Doxsee was a yeoman in communications engineering with the Coast Guard. Doxsee followed her two brothers into the service, saying they were in the Army and she had to do something too. Vail found her inspiration to serve elsewhere.

"I was in college and it was right after FDR [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] announced we were going to war," she said. "It [joining the Navy] seemed like the right thing to do."

After a year and a half of service, Vail returned to college and finished her degree, becoming an elementary school teacher. Doxsee served for three years, in Seattle, Wash. working her way to becoming a chief petty officer.

"I don't really know what my parents thought [of her joining the Coast Guard], but I know they were proud," Doxsee said.

Shawn Benson, another local veteran, joined the Army in 1989 as a way to see the world. He is considered one of the new veterans, even though he has been out of the Army since 1993. Benson served during Operation Desert Storm, and also served in Bahrain and South Somalia. As soon as he left the service, he too joined the VFW.

"It's a nice place to go and relax," he said.

The VFW post 6417 is located on Depot Street, near the Manchester Shopping Plaza. To find out more information about the post, call 362-9840.