Photo courtesy of US Senate

Korean War Veterans Association closes doors

January 16, 2019 - 7:00 am

For 13 years the Korean War Veterans Association of Mohave County has served not only veterans but the community as a whole, but due to a decline in membership, held its final meeting Jan. 5 before closing its doors.

The Korean War Veterans Association, a national organization with chapters all throughout the country, set up shop in Mohave County in 2005 when the need was realized.

“I guess the powers to be down in Phoenix decided ‘let’s see how it looks up there,’ said Sharon Gilfoil, Mohave County KWVA secretary. “They knew there were a lot of veterans up here, because that covers Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City (as well as Kingman).”

The first meeting in 2005 proved that there was a need for the organization in Mohave County, with Gilfoil saying some 80 people were in attendance. That translated to about 50 veterans signing up to become members, 40 of whom Gilfoil said were extremely active throughout the years in events and at meetings, which were held at VFW Post 10386.

“They wanted the association really bad, they were happy with the camaraderie it provided,” Gilfoil said. “That hall would be full of members.”

She said that from the beginning her husband, Bill, stayed in contact with other veteran organizations, such as the Vietnam Veterans, as well as the City of Kingman and the Elks to further promote KWVA. She said Bill and other members of the county’s KWVA would volunteer for flag raisings whenever possible to help keep the chapter fresh in everyone’s minds.

Gilfoil said the organization had good participation from its members early on, but over time, those numbers began to wane for a multitude of reasons. The root of almost all of them, Gilfoil said, was age.

“A lot of people got sick, and just since my husband’s been gone, and that’s been 6 ½ years, we’ve lost seven members,” Gilfoil explained. “Quite a few of them had medical problems and had to move closer to the kids, or the wife had to move closer to the kids, so naturally the husband had to go.”

As membership continued to decline, the organization did everything it could to bolster its numbers. A Facebook page was created, Mohave County newspapers were contacted, as were senior centers. Mohave County KWVA even changed its rules to allow participation from service veterans from 1955 to present day.

“Whenever we’d see someone at the market who had a (veterans) cap on, we’d approach them,” said Jack Clark, commander of the county chapter.

Despite all that effort, the Mohave County chapter saw just one new member in the past three years. Between deaths, illnesses and members relocating to be closer to family members in their later years, the county’s KWVA had just eight local individuals on the list to receive its last newsletter.

The local KWVA went above and beyond during its 13 years, serving not only veterans, but the community as well.

“They gave scholarships to the college, they had several things they raised money for,” explained Beverly Clark, who became involved because of her husband, Jack.

And the Kingman community has likely seen some of the Korean War veterans riding on a vintage fire truck during annual parades. Throughout the years, donations were also given to VFW Post 10386, Cornerstone Mission, The Salvation Army, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council. With what funds they had remaining after shutting down, the Korean veterans gave a $500 check to Wounded Warriors, $300 to VFW Post 10386 and $1,100 to JAVC.

“They’ve been great to this town, they’ll be sorely missed,” said Pat Farrell, JAVC president.

Jack expressed his appreciation to veterans and the community, and said it has been an honor to serve as commander. He also urged Mohave County residents to continue supporting the veteran community however they are able.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.