SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. - Missouri American Legion national executive committeeman Charles Goodin had heard "a lot of great things" about the American Legion Zach Wheat Post 624 in Sunrise Beach over the years.
But when he attended a special ceremony for the opening of the new playground, horseshoe pit and outdoors activity center at the post, he saw how much the post's members and auxiliary have their "heart in promoting family and community participation at the American Legion."
"The promotion of younger veterans and families' involvement at the post with this playground area should be commended and utilized among other posts," he said at Saturday's event. "Your heart is with these veterans and children, and your involvement shows just how much the legion cares."
Post 624 commander Jim Norton and Post 624 American Legion Riders members joined Goodin and other Legion officials in the dedication of the playground area.
As part of the Post 624 American Legion Riders first Shine & Show Car and Bike Show held Saturday at the post, the ceremony allowed visitors to the show to explore the new playground area, which is also equipped with a bean bag games, washers, horseshoe pit and pavilion. Many local businesses helped in donating time, materials and monetary contributions over the last year to help get these needed addition to the post's grounds open for use.
"We are seeing more younger veterans from the Afghanistan and Desert Storm war eras coming to the post. There is nothing for them to do with their families, and we wanted to get a playground set up to give them more family friendly activities at the post," said Tom Hohnecker, Post 624 American Legion Riders member and event organizer. "That is part of the reason our legion state commander were at the ceremony; he hopes to use our program in getting this playground installed as a pilot program for other American Legions in the state."
Guests also were able to learn more about a special showpiece at the car and bike show - the Fallen Hero's Dream Ride.
The Fallen Hero's Dream Ride was formed after the death of Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan, according to Fallenherosdreamride.org.
Vinnedge was a member of the weapons company of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, He was killed in action on Oct. 13, 2010.
According to the website, Vinnedge's dream was to acquire and restore a classic Chevy truck. Before deploying to Afghanistan, he vowed to find and restore one when he returned home. His family decided to pursue that mission for him.
The project began with a 1951 Chevrolet 3100 pickup with 28,000 original miles. After 18 months of restoration, the rolling memorial was unveiled at Six Flags Over Mid-America in Eureka. Now it has been showcased at Camp Pendleton in California, during the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. and many other events across the Midwest.
Vinnedge's parents, Dave and Julie, were amazed by the appreciation and admiration shown Saturday for the display and their efforts to help honor fallen military men and women.
"When we have the truck at non-military events, members of the community ask what year it is and then learn about Fallen Hero's Dream Ride's mission. We educate them about the not-for-profit organization, supporting our fallen military men and women, and also our mission to help children of fallen soldiers," Dave Vinnedge said.
"Then, if we are at an event like this that is military-related, we see a lot of veterans who appreciate and thank us for what we are doing. Many of them want to touch the truck in honor of Phillip and his service."
Many guests to Saturday's show enjoyed learning about and viewing the Fallen Hero's Dream Ride, as well as numerous motorcycles and classic and custom cars at the post. Visitors also sampled food, listened to music and helped raise funds for the American Legion Post 624 through bidding on silent auction items during the show.
For more information about the Post 624 American Legion Riders, call Hohnecker at 913-488-4580. For more information about the American Legion Post 624, call 573-374-6091 or visit www.zackwheatlegionpost624.org. For more information about the Fallen Hero's Dream Ride, visit www.fallenherosdreamride.org.