Richmond Hill attorney Jonathan DeJesus, like many local residents, is a military veteran who observes Veterans Day with solemn pride. He served in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“It’s easier to (observe Veterans Day) here than it would be in other places because it’s more personal,” DeJesus said. “Here, they (veterans) are your neighbors. In other towns people may just see Veterans Day as a day off. We have the opportunity to honor the people who live here, who work here.”
DeJesus reaches out to other veterans all year long as the commander of the Richmond Hill Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, Post 7331.
The chapter has 52 members.
DeJesus said the chapter’s older members, veterans of World War II and Vietnam, understand the difficulties younger soldiers encounter serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and can offer emotional support.
“We have one World War II vet who feels our soldiers today have a harder time than in his generation,” DeJesus said. “It’s a different type of fight over there and a different type of schedule.”
When he served in Iraq, the young Army officer’s mission was to help Iraqis develop their own judicial system. Now, DeJesus practices family, criminal and personal injury law at The Murray Firm on Ford Avenue in Richmond Hill.
“I first joined the Army in 1991,” DeJesus said. “My father was in the service, in the Vietnam War. The military was something I had always wanted to do. I wanted to get out and see the world and get money for college.”
DeJesus did just that. His first tour was to Darmstadt, Germany, near Frankfurt.
However, his subsequent assignments were more challenging.
“I was assigned to Fort Stewart in 2002,” DeJesus said. “I went to Iraq in 2003 — in the very beginning of the war.”
The Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran said the conflict was a traditional war in the beginning, but that military operations transitioned quickly toward rebuilding and stabilizing the country of Iraq.
He was initially assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s Judge Advocate General office.
“While I was over there, I did work with the 3rd MPs. That was my main function,” DeJesus said. “We trained on how to handle detainees and run the detention center.”
Later, DeJesus worked with the 2nd Brigade’s MPs, training Iraqis in law enforcement.
He said the goal was to help the Iraqis try their own cases, which he said they did as early as July 2003.
“So they were up and running way back then,” DeJesus said.
The veteran left the Army in April 2007. He decided to make Richmond Hill his home. And he soon found the company of fellow veterans through the VFW.
DeJesus said VFW chapter members do what they can to make a positive impact on their community.
“Our members visit schools and the senior center,” he said.
The chapter also hosts student essay competitions for area middle school students. DeJesus said the VFW awards savings bonds to the essay winners. Students are asked to write essays on themes like, “Who do you consider a hero?”
The VFW commander said the chapter is currently holding a membership drive.
“Our membership numbers change from year to year,” he said. “Many of our members are active duty and move. We’re trying to get our numbers up. And, we’re looking for a (permanent) VFW home.”
VFW Post 7331 meets at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month, usually at the Bryan County Library in Richmond Hill. This month, the group will meet at Beef O’Brady’s.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (912) 655-5456.
“We’re on Facebook, too,” DeJesus said.