By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Heavy rain and wind were two things American Legion Post 1080 Commander Joe Toleno was happy to leave behind in New York.
Toleno, along with 12 other members of Post 1080, of Mahopac, N.Y., made the cross-country trip to Joplin on Friday to be part of local Veterans Day events. They left behind the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and 7 inches of snow that followed to return to a town they have supported since the May 22, 2011, tornado.
After marching in Saturday’s Veterans Day parade, Post 1080 members had planned a cookout for local veterans Sunday at Memorial Hall. Despite the blustery weather, the men of Post 1080 still fired up their massive grill to cook for more than 75 local veterans and their families.
Toleno said that despite the sudden change of weather, the plans for the weekend were never in doubt.
“This was our way to say thank you to the people of Joplin,” Toleno said. “These people welcomed us into their lives, and we wanted to celebrate with them on Veterans Day. There was no way that this wasn’t going to happen today.”
After the 2011 tornado, the Mahopac Legion post sent a truck loaded with supplies and cash to Joplin.
Howard Spiva, commander of Joplin American Legion Post 13, said his phone did not stop ringing Sunday morning, with people calling to see if the celebration was still happening.
“I had almost 100 calls to make sure that we were still having this and if there was anything that could be done,” Spiva said. “Weather can’t stop our celebrations today. It would take something a lot bigger to stop Veterans Day.”
Joplin resident Rebecca Mitchell was on hand for the cookout along with her husband, Chris. Mitchell said her family came out to honor veterans past and present.
“My husband’s father was a vet,” Mitchell said. “So that is how we got involved locally with the events this weekend. It is a great experience to learn what these people went through, and we like to say thanks to those people when we can.”
Post 13 Sergeant-at-Arms Bob French was on hand to man the tables during the cookout. For French, events like this represent what the American Legion is about.
“We are about building our community and our nation for the better,” French said. “You look at how all these groups work together. The American Legion, the VFW, the Red Cross have a lot of volunteers in the community, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that these groups are national. These guys from New York are here because they helped out last year and they feel a bond with the town.
“I know that when the hurricane happened last week, the local Red Cross had 50 volunteers on the ground out there from Joplin. Things like this show that pleasure in building a community together. These people show the best of what can come out of the worst.”
AN ARMISTICE between the Allies and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, ending World War I. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 Armistice Day, and Veterans Day now is observed on Nov. 11.
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs