This Saturday, May 28, a group of local veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and other service organizations will be out to help clean up the park that honors their service.
Local veteran and Great Bend native Don Green is in charge of organizing the effort, which began five years ago. Green typically organizes the local cleanup event four times per year - Memorial Day, Flag Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day.
Green said he began organizing the event after moving back to his hometown in 2015 as a way for armed forces veterans to continue their service. He sees community service as an important extension of service to the country.
“Most of the guys that I know of who joined the military joined due to allegiance to the country, and that doesn’t stop with your military service. It continues on to serve your community and in any way you can,” Green said.
Typically he gets between four and 10 people out for the cleanup events, many of whom are from the VFW and other veterans organizations. Although it is geared toward veterans, he said anyone who wants to be a part of the event and to support veterans is welcome to come out.
Weather permitting, the group begins at 9 a.m., and he said it usually takes about an hour and a half for them to make a full loop around the park. The group picks up both trash and organic debris in plastic bags and makes sure it is properly disposed of.
If the weather is bad, he said, usually the group will go out for breakfast at Braum’s and take time to bond and reminisce about their service. Either way, it’s a good time of fellowship for the vets.
“We’re getting something done and having a little camaraderie at the same time,” Green said.
Green said this Saturday’s event is a way to ensure the park is clean for Memorial Day ceremonies coming up on May 30.
“Veterans Park is one of those things I always felt that was something that we need to take pride in (as veterans) and make sure that it had a good representation,” Green said.
Green’s service roots run deep.
After growing up in Great Bend, Green enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served six years, including a tour in the Vietnam War. After returning from Vietnam, Green was stationed at Moffett Field near San Francisco, Calif., before returning to Great Bend. After that, he spent several years living and working in Fort Collins, Colo., where he became active in the VFW and American Legion posts there. He then returned home in 2015 to be closer to family.
The cleanup project was something he began doing during his time in Fort Collins and wanted to continue when he came home.
City of Great Bend Public Lands Director Scott Keeler said it means a lot to the city and its staff to have community members who are willing to step up and help keep the city clean. Having volunteers like that is extremely important to the city, Keeler said.