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In honor of Steve

Blasses receive Medal of Valor

August 23, 2013
Estherville News

Carol and Randy Blass, mother and father of Steve Blass who died in a helicopter crash this past March in Afghanistan, Thursday night received a Medal of Valor on behalf of their son, the late Staff Sgt. Steve Blass, from the Estherville Elks Lodge 528.

Estherville pulled out all the stops in honoring Staff Sgt. Blass in what was likely the most moving memorial ceremony in living memory.

Following is the text that Elks Exalted Ruler Judi Hoffman read in presenting the Medal of Valor to Carol and Randy Blass.

Article Photos

The Estherville Elks Lodge 528 Thursday night presented the Medal of Valor to Randy and Carol Blass. Their son Steve died in a helicopter crash this past March in Afghanistan. From left are Randal Moffitt, Loyal Knight; April Moffitt, Youth Activities/Chaplain; Judi Hoffman, Exalted Ruler; Carol and Randy Blass; and Russell Richard, Leading Knight.
Photo by Michael Tidemann

Thank you all for sharing this day with us. The purpose of this ceremony today is to pay tribute to, and honor those, who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of our every freedom. To do this, so that everyone understands why we as Elks feel that we have earned the right to present such an honor, I want to provide you with a short history of how the Elks and our nation's veterans became connected.

The Benevolent and Protective order of Elks began on Feb. 16, 1868 by a group of unemployed actors. The declared purposes of the Elks were then, and still are, to practice our four cardinal virtues: Charity, Justice, Brotherly, Love and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of our members and to quicken the spirit of American patriotism and to cultivate good fellowship.

The first call to action was to help financially, and in kind, the widows and families of those who perished during the Civil War. This was only the beginning.

During World War I the Elks provided for the equipment of two base hospitals. These were the first base hospitals to reach the battle area in France. As the wounded began returning home, it became obvious to the Elks that there would not be enough care facilities for everyone. The Elks then purchased land in Boston and built a 700-bed hospital. On Nov. 16, 1918, it was dedicated and then given to the government, the first of the VA hospitals to be established in the United States.

The Elks also established their own War Relief Commission. We felt that the fund under its control could not be better used than providing suitable vocational training for disabled veterans. You'll notice our lodge's recognition of this on the wall in the dining room.

Realizing that a proper spirit of independence should be encouraged, and that loans would be preferred to charitable gifts, the Commission created a revolving fund from which such loans might be made to disabled veterans, the repayments of which would enable a larger number of individuals to be aided. Thousands of disabled soldiers, sailors, and Marines received vocational training through this program. Loans were made without security, and it is a fine testimonial to our veterans that of the nearly 40,000 loans made (approximately $700,000.00), every dollar was repaid. This loan program was turned over to the government and became what we now know at the GI Bill.

Our local lodges also became actively involved. During this time in over 700 cities across the country, Elks; personal homes and their Elks Lodges were used as headquarters and work rooms for local relief activities. Millions of dollars of lodge funds were used to purchase Liberty Bonds.

In no instance did the Order, or any of its local lodges, appeal to the public for funds to finance their respective activities. Every dollar was provided by Elks.

Knowing that aviation would play a major role in the war, The United States War Department came to the Elks for a campaign to recruit aviation cadets. With help of local lodges 400 schools were established for the Aviation Cadet Training Corps.

In 1942 an Elks war fund was established with the pledge of one dollar for every member in the Order. This pledge was renewed every year during the war.

Among the outstanding contributions of the Elks to the country was their effective cooperation with the armed service in recruiting programs. The Adjutant General of the Army requested the Elks to assume a major responsibility for enlisting 45,000 men needed for service in aviation ground crews. To this end, not 45,000 men were recruited but 97,000 were secured.

A special corps of skilled men for construction work was needed, so at the request of both the War Department and Navy Department a program was submitted to the local lodges to help recruit what would become the Army Engineers and the Navy Seabees.

In 1949, the

Elks National Service Commission was created to carry on the post-war patriotic work of the Order.

We carry on today through our veterans hospital visits, our coffee donations, our Adopt-a-Vet program and our Veterans Leather program, our Army of Hope campaign and the Medal of Valor program for which we are gathered here today.

I found the information shared here today in a book named The Story of Elkdom last printed in 1957. The last paragraph about veterans I would like to read: "Through the magnificent, coordinated efforts put forth by State Associations, subordinate lodges and individual Elks, the National Service Commission has continued all of its activities in the name and spirit of patriotism. Whenever war clouds hover over us, this outstanding American fraternity will always assume a position of leadership in an endeavor to bring hope, comfort and happiness to the young men and women of our armed services. In our unceasing effort to "Serve those who served," the Order of Elks lives up to its pledge, which is: "So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them."

As you can tell, the ties between the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and our nation's veterans is both long and impressive.

The Medal of Valor Program was designed to give thanks, and to honor, not only the soldiers who perished, but just as important, their families.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of myself, the Estherville Elks, the Iowa Elks Association and Elks from across the country, once again thank you for what you have given us.

Cutline:

The Estherville Elks Lodge 528 Thursday night presented the Medal of Valor to Randy and Carol Blass. Their son Steve died in a helicopter crash this past March in Afghanistan. From left are Randal Moffitt, Loyal Knight; April Moffitt, Youth Activities/Chaplain; Judi Hoffman, Exalted Ruler; Carol and Randy Blass; and Russell Richard, Leading Knight.

 
 
 

 

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