How local veterans helped a fellow vet fix his home

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Rob Hurst, VFW Post 8383 Commander, left, listens as veteran Dennis Huey talks Friday, May 7, at the VFW Post in New Blaine about the changes made to his home by the post members.

Dennis Huey served in the U.S Army from 1971 to 1980. He made sacrifices for his country. But until this year, he only had running water in his kitchen sink. He showered using a garden hose in his backyard. He did not have a working toilet or laundry machine.

That changed when the Logan County chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stepped up. Members of the VFW along with volunteers from the community converted Huey's deck into an addition to his home.

They added walls, insulation, sheetrock and flooring and installed a toilet and laundry machine.

“We did the whole thing just like you were building a new house," said Robert Hurst, the post's commander who was in charge of the project.

Hurst started the endeavor last spring and completed it a couple of weeks ago. 

Huey said the renovation has changed his life.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be able to take a shower, do laundry or anything else," Huey said.

Huey's home was not the first project that the VFW has tackled, but it is the largest. Previous projects that the group has done have included building wheelchair ramps for veterans and making homes wheelchair accessible.

How the organization helps, “It just depends on the needs of the veterans," Hurst said.

When Hurst heard about Huey's situation he said, “We just wanted to help."

“And I told Dennis, my exact words were that day 'I don’t know how. I don’t know when. And I don’t know what we’re going to do. But we’re going to help some way.' And then it just kind of went from there," Hurst said.

Jim Ahlin, a junior vice commander with the post, called the work on Huey's home rewarding. He credited Hurst with getting the project done.

Hurst said that he would not have been able to complete the renovations to Huey's home without the help of volunteers who gave their time, their services and their money to the project.

“None of it works without the volunteers," Hurst said.

Whenever the VFW decides to embark upon a project, all the members talk about it and then vote whether to pursue it, said Doug Yates, who is a VFW member who voted to help Huey.

“Anytime somebody needs help who’s a vet we’re on it," Yates said. He later added, “We do our best for the vets," Yates said.

Post 8383 is the only VFW location in Logan County. Veterans founded it in 1976. The only requirement to be in the VFW is that members have to have served in a foreign war.

The VFW is there for veterans to lift up other veterans, Hurst said. He said that the group understands that when veterans complete their military careers, they often struggle.

“There’s just a need," Hurst said.

And the VFW is there to fill that need, the men agreed. Hurst said that the VFW is so much more than a place for veterans to hang out. It is a place where they can come together. It is a community.

“That’s kind of the mission statement for us: no one does more for veterans," Hurst said.

The wall behind the Post 8383 registry displays the post charter, awards, officer boards, and the post's distinguishing ties to the community, seen, Friday, May 7, in New Blaine.