Delegates celebrated the 35th Anniversary of the Region 4 Veterans Conference at the Pat Greathouse Center from May 18-21, 2023.
Attendees participated in workshops and meetings, listened to a number of speakers, and enjoyed fellowship with one another during the four day event.
The Conference convened on Friday morning with the Posting of Colors by the Minnesota Color Guard. Region 4 Veterans Council Chair Horace Hubbard Jr. then opened the Conference by welcoming all in attendance. Veterans Coordinator, Ted Dever, Region 4 Assistant Director, Lucas DeSpain, and Region 4 Director, Brandon Campbell each spoke during introductions as well.
Director Campbell addressed delegates with a message of gratitude for their service and for making Veterans Conferences a success through the years. He also spoke about the importance of unity in a time when funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is under attack. “I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” Campbell said. “The vast majority of us have common goals for this country that we love. What do we want? Safe streets, decent schools, decent opportunities. We want our tax dollars to go to people who need it; to social services for people who need them. And we want jobs that provide decent wages, benefits, and working conditions.”
UAW retiree and veteran Ed Vanlennep spoke to delegates, recounting the story of how he and several other veterans first came up with the idea to form the Region 4 Veterans Council in 1987. “There were about ten of us veterans in the beginning, I believe,” Vanlennep said. “We were at a conference here at the Pat Greathouse Center thirty-five years ago. And there used to be a big oak tree outside. We all met out by that tree one day and we were asking ourselves, what can we do for our fellow veteran Brothers and Sisters? And that’s when we decided we were going to start the Veterans Council within the UAW.”
Those founding veterans who met outside of the Pat Greathouse Center at the oak tree in 1987 came to be known as the Oak Tree Boys. Chairperson Hubbard presented four of the founders, Ed Vanlennep, Dennis Galloway, Jeff Doc Dentice, and Wally Kubicki, with an award acknowledging their hard work and dedication to the Veterans Council through the years.
Vanlennep also shared the story of how he and his wife Alisha were married at the Pat Greathouse Center in 1991. “We were up here at the Pat Greathouse Center thirty two years ago,” Vanlennep said, “and Wally Kubicki said to me, ‘Ed, you gotta marry that girl you’re with or you’re going to lose her.’ So I told him, ‘I’ll tell you what; you line up a preacher to come here and if you get somebody to play the piano or the organ because I want music. And if you guys pay for the state fee afterwards. If you do that, we will get married. And sure enough, Wally calls me up two days later and it’s a done deal. So me and Alisha were married right here in front of the Pat Greathouse Center.”
Jeannie Flagel presented Janine “Snowflake” Kubicki and Alisha Vanlennep with an award for helping to establish the Women’s Roundtable. The Women’s Roundtable was formed to help support Region 4 Veterans whenever they were in need. From organizing raffles to raise funds for veterans, to helping coordinate countless events, the Roundtable played a pivotal role in the success of Region 4 Veterans Conferences through the years.
Wally Kubicki spoke movingly about the many bonfires and picnic table discussions veterans have shared at Veterans Conferences over the last three decades. “This event brings back so many memories,” he told those in attendance. “To me, what goes on here, what makes this event so special, are the nights; after the work is over, when we go down to the bonfire and all of us vets sit around and talk with one another. The camaraderie we share. We got to keep this Conference going so thirty five years from now I can come back and visit all you young guys.
Thank you to everyone for thirty five years of fun and hard work.”