GARY DUEHRING AND JENNIFER CLARKE are shown at the Owosso American Legion Post 57 on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Duehring and Clarke offered some insight on the needs of local veterans to be able to have a safe outlet to socialize.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
The Owosso American Legion Post 57 on E. Mason Street in downtown Owosso was closed for nearly three months during quarantine earlier this year, but heading into late fall, the organization has opened up with due consideration offered to social distancing and pandemic safety protocols. Speaking for American Legion Post 57, Gary “Doc” Duehring (commander) and Jennifer Clarke (auxiliary and bar tender) offered a 2020 update on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“Now we’re open again for Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, so we’re starting to see some daylight again,” shared Duehring. “It’s really hard when you are use to having the place full. We had to take tables out and the whole business … to comply. We’ve been trying to just keep the doors open and such. It costs $3,200 per month to keep the doors open here, with insurance and utilities and such. I get it. I really feel for these small restaurants and stuff that are all closing up.” Duehring mentioned Clarke who is suppose to draw some pay for her work at the legion, but has been drawing unemployment in recent months.
“People are tired right now of not seeing their friends. People are tired of being isolated, but they are still trying to be safe, you know,” he offered. Many of the members at the American Legion are of a generation that is considered most at risk in relation to COVID-19.
“Veterans share with veterans only because there is this camaraderie and you can’t explain it to somebody else,” he added, referencing the need for Veteran Service Organizations. He mentioned the recent increase in suicide and depression rates.
Clarke elaborated on some current happenings, outlining Wednesday evening cornhole tournaments that started up in mid-October. The tournaments take place in the 1st-floor hall where the space allows for social distancing. “There are three or four teams,” Clarke shared. “There’s not a lot of people, but we will continue this for a while. Everybody needs somebody and our veterans need somebody to talk to.”
Duehring and Clarke both have a strong connection to the American Legion. Clarke is the mother of Shane Cantu who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. Since his passing, Clarke has been a force for area veterans. Duehring, who is the American Legion Post 57 commander, has also been involved in the Shiawassee County Veterans Honor Guard and other county veteran services. In 2018, Duehring was honored with the Curwood Festival Mr. Owosso trophy, just signifying one other means in which he is committed to the community.
Aside from cornhole, Monday night is once again open as burger night. “We try to keep in contact with our veterans,” shared Clarke. “We’re not seeing all of them out yet because they’re trying to stay safe.”
The American Legion Post 57 will be in the upcoming Durand Veterans Day Parade. Heading toward Christmas, the auxiliary has adopted a homeless family with two boys. Clarke explained that the funds to help the family come from the Campaign For Shane 5K race – in memory of her son.
Duehring also shared that the auxiliary adopted two rooms at the new Fiddler’s Green in Corunna. The two rooms are being converted into a barbershop and beauty shop for veterans living at the independent living community. The auxiliary had even been able to purchase an actual barbershop pole.
For more information on how to become involved or make donations, please call (989) 723-4046.