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Dreiling passes baton to next generation

5/26/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Stan Dreiling and Charlie Staab organized American Legion Post 173's Memorial Day services together since 1988.

After Staab's death in November at age 85, Dreiling thought the time was right to begin seeking younger members of the Hays post who could organize Memorial Day services.

"It's time to get younger guys involved," said Dreiling, 68. "We need new ideas, new people."

Kevin Van Horn, recently re-elected commander of Post 173, has agreed to be part of the transition.

"I think he'll be an outstanding person," Dreiling said.

"It's a lot of a learning curve," Van Horn said. "It's a real honor to even be asked to do this. The main focus is just helping our veterans, helping our older veterans, fill that connection. A lot of them are lonely.

"Sometimes, it's just good to get around other veterans, and talk about stuff."

The American Legion will hold its annual Memorial Day services at 10 a.m. on Monday in the ballroom at 1305 Canterbury.

Volunteers put approximately 1,000 flags on veterans' graves Thursday and Friday. Dreiling, who has been putting flags on graves since 1972, has a big binder with each grave location listed, but he doesn't need it. He has the grave sites memorized by now.

"It's just an honor," Dreiling said.

The program at the American Legion takes about two weeks of preparation, Dreiling said.

"It has to probably be the most important thing we do all year, to honor those that have fallen," said Van Horn, 44, who served in both the Marines and Army. "Just showing your respects for those who gave their life, for freedom we take for granted every single day.

"Memorial Day's coming up; it's not just go to the lake and eat hot dogs."

Dreiling, who was in the Army from 1966 to 1968, and who served in Vietnam, wants to continue to help with Memorial Day activities; he just wants to make sure there is an orderly transition.

"I want to be part of it and still be around to help," Dreiling said. "I've been wanting to do this for some time. As you get up in age, you don't know what's going to happen."

"It's not his last year," Van Horn said of Dreiling. "He wants to get more people involved that know how to do it, so when the time comes, he is able to step down and not feel like someone's left hanging.

"It needs to be a slow transition, so you still have those older veterans there to mentor you."