The Spokesman-Review : interns

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sam Taylor: The people we meet

I wrote a story today about the Idaho American Legion's state convention, which is coming to Post Falls Thursday through Sunday.

The story was about whether membership in the group is waning as more war veterans are dying (namely World War II veterans). But what I hardly touched on was the work of John Dunlap, the Post Falls American Legion Post 143 commander.

Dunlap is a pretty amazing individual and it's hard not to admire the man who did several tours in Korea and Vietnam. He gets hundreds of calls each day - most of them outside of Post Falls - from people seeking help. Whether it's about a soldier who passed away and someone doesn't know what to do, veterans benefits or more, he is there on the front line to help these people.

Today photojournalist Jesse Tinsley and I helped pick up the cooling unit of a new refridgerated store room outside of the Post 143 building. We placed it on the roof of the room so a technician can install it fully. John plans to use the room to store all of the food they give away to people in the community. It's not just veterans or their families. The Post Falls American Legion Post truly wants to help everyone. They have steak dinners and weekend breakfasts at low costs for anyone who wants it.

When children of veterans have birthdays, the Post Falls American Legion Post has a birthday celebration for them on a monthly basis. They gave food away to the 116th Engineer Battallion C Company soldiers' families while they spent 18 months in Iraq.

And John was instrumental in bringing the Veterans license plates to Idaho.

So it's not that hard to listen to John when he sort of goes off on a failed federal amendment that would change the constitution to say that the U.S. flag should not be desecrated. Sure - even if people have differing opinions and say that whatever someone does to the flag is free speech - John still earned the right to lament his position. He truly cares about his community and about his nation.

As a journalist, it's great to meet people like John. He is colorful and he cares about what he does. He's not a fanatic - he's merely a patriot. If I were one of the ones to disagree with him, so what? He's got an interesting story that many can appreciate, and this is what journalism is about. Telling other people's stories.

And I was glad I met him today.


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