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FORT MCCOY, Wisc. - When it comes to proving that you don't have to be the biggest to make a large impact, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4288 has done so often.

Nestled in the small community of Corder, Mo. - population 413, located about an hour east of Kansas City - the post boasts 104 members.

Even more, nearly a dozen of its current members are Missouri Army National Guardsmen who are currently serving their country in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In fact, they are set to deploy to Afghanistan, as members of the same unit - the 203rd Engineer Battalion, whose mission will be route clearance along some of the country's most remote routes.

"I think it's a very unique situation, to have all of us deploying on the same mission at the same time," said Command Sgt. Major Steve Stuenkel, of Corder, the unit's senior enlisted member. "For such a small post to send so many of its active members to the same place is pretty amazing."

Stuenkel said even though his fellow VFW members are all going on the same mission they won't be serving on the same forward operating base. Instead, they'll be spread throughout the area of operations performing a variety of duties, each one important to the central mission.

The astounding number of post members currently serving "is a reflection of what our military is doing throughout the world" and has always done, said Sergeant First Class Andy Monsees, of Joplin, Mo. The post has members who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I always wanted the opportunity to be a part of an organization which I considered to be a group of individuals who sacrificed and felt the same honor and integrity that I feel for our country," Monsees said. "Now I also serve alongside the guys of VFW Post 4288," whose members embody the values he considers important.

In all, 11 of the post's members - or more than 10 percent of its entire membership roster - will be in Afghanistan for about the same period of time. And while that's an exceptional percentage, Doug Lorenz, the post quartermaster since 1993, says he'd like see more vets from the Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom join.

"I'd like to see more of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans become members. My goal is to get more of the younger, currently serving military members to join up," Lorenz said. He added that the post has been selected "All State" - meaning it has been one of the most active posts - five times since 2000.

For its small size, the post has a long reach. The post sponsors elementary and high school events such as "Project Graduation," academic scholarships and essay contests. Members help host the annual Corder picnic and cook breakfast for the public twice a month during the fall as a fundraiser.

The post also lends hospital and health care equipment, contributes labor for local park improvement projects and donates liberally to the veterans home in nearby Warrensburg.

"The organization is all about a group of guys, from various conflicts, who can come together and help those who need help, share stories with those that can relate to them and to continue to experience the camaraderie that we have all experienced while wearing the uniform," Monsees said. "It is an honor to serve with them."

One member of the post's Afghan "band of brothers" was not with the group at Fort McCoy. Master Sgt. Kerrik Lilleman, a member of the Missouri Army National Guard's 311th Brigade Support Battalion, is in Afghanistan as a member of the third Agricultural Development Team, which deployed in early October.

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.

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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16