By Michael P. Mauer
A Mon Valley resident and life member of All State West Mifflin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 ‘Intrepid’ donated $1,000 June 27 to help local disabled service members.
Lois Shirley, a Vietnam veteran who served as a career Army Nurse Corps officer from 1966 to 1988, was presented with a certificate from VFW Post 914 Commander Jake Bradich thanking her for the generous gift she made to the post’s hospital visitation program. The effort sparked a standing ovation during the unit’s monthly 7 p.m. meeting at the Thompson Run Athletic Association on Ball Avenue, West Mifflin.
“This is what we as a veterans’ organization are all about,” said VFW Post 914 Commander Jake Bradich, an Army Iraq War veteran. “You never really ever put your uniform away once you make the commitment to serve.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 ‘Intrepid’ Post Surgeon Bernie Zurawski, who served as a Marine in Beirut, Lebanon, and organizes his unit’s hospital visitation program, agreed.
“This is truly inspirational,” he said. “We can’t thank Lt. Col. Shirley enough for what she has done, except to help make a few more veterans happier.”
Stationed with the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam, Shirley first worked as a staff nurse in tropical medicine. She was quickly promoted to head nurse – first for internal medicine, then also for the 100-bed convalescent unit. In her duties, she handled casualties directly from the battlefield.
Including her combat tour, Shirley completed 22 years with the Army Nurse Corps before retiring. She later became an instructor in the associate degree nursing program, and also director of disabled student services at the Community College of Allegheny County.
The retired Army nurse keeps herself active in veterans’ affairs. She serves on the board of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh, and is a member of several other veterans service organizations.
Shirley’s donation will be used to help buy refreshments and snacks for patients and residents, as well as to purchase coupon books, and fund small cash prizes during bingo games at Southwestern Veterans Center. Patients use these windfalls to purchase things such as toiletry items and other sundry articles at the hospital canteen.
The prize money from the bingos fills a need. Many of the veterans and other residents at Southwestern Veterans Center are indigent, and what little financial support they have by way of pension or government benefits are utilized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to help fund their care.
“My brother was a patient at Southwestern Veterans Center, and I know how much what the VFW does there is appreciated,” Shirley said.
Located approximately six miles from West Mifflin, Southwestern Veterans Center is an assisted living facility run by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. It serves more than 200 veterans and spouses who are disabled, chronically ill, or in need of specialized care. Patients there have been the focus of VFW Post 914’s hospital visitation program for more than 25 years.
In addition to Shirley’s contribution, the West Mifflin post will fund its hospital visitation program this year largely through Buddy Poppy donations, and a grant provided by the VFW Foundation. The organization has never operated a club or a bar to help raise money for its activities.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 ‘Intrepid’ West Mifflin’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In the last five years, the West Mifflin veterans’ group has earned the All American post designation, and three times been named an All State Post. For 2019, it is the only All State Post in Allegheny County. It also does not have social members or an auxiliary. Also this year, VFW Post 914 won the Department of Pennsylvania Van Zandt Award for the most new and reinstated post members as a percentage of membership.
For more information about VFW Post 914 and its activities, visit the group’s website at: http://traa.weebly.com/vfw-post-914.html, or contact VFW Post 914 Commander Bradich at: 412 508-1313.
(Michael P. Mauer is the Public Affairs Officer for VFW District 29. He served as an Army photojournalist during Operation Desert Storm, and was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf for his actions during the war.)