Omaha Marines take care of other Marines: “It’s all about service, you know?”
OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) — It’s a Friday brunch tradition at the Omaha Hy-Vee on 96th and Q.
“I came to one of the meetings and I was hooked,” said 91-year-old Leroy Andresen.
He got hooked on the Omaha Marine League – Miguel Keita’s Unit 609; a group of Marine Corps veterans who continue to serve others.
“We have more members in our league here at the Miguel Keita Annex than in the rest of Nebraska combined,” league member Terry Kempf said.
“They feel like their time was well spent and they keep coming back for more,” league commandant Jerry Boganousi said. “Because they feel like they’re contributing, like they’re doing something.”
The list of volunteer services for the community is endless. They play a big part in Toys for Toddlers, which has collected more than 130,000 gifts this year than last year.
They also played a significant role in the creation of the Naval Memorial at the Memorial Park and the renovation of the Miguel Keita Park.
“Miguel Keith was an Omaha North High School graduate who gave his life in Vietnam protecting his friends and fellow Marines and received the Medal of Honor for that,” Boganovsi said. “We therefore feel compelled to look after his legacy, as we do for the legacy of two other Medal of Honor recipients (Edward Gomez and James Meredith).”
Once a month, for over 14 years now, the group has been going to the park, which shares the same name as the league squad, cleaning it up and making sure it and the Miguel Keita Memorial remain in good condition.
“If I tell them that we have a function – if we are going to make toys for toddlers, or if we are going to clean up the park, or take care of the Medal of Honor graves – they will just come out,” Boganovsi said. .
The league is Keep Omaha Beautiful’s oldest volunteer group.
“Just an organization of Marines who are still doing their part,” league member George Vogel said.
“It’s all about service, you know? Kempf said.
Their service continues for current Marines in need of assistance.
“One Marine, his mom’s house caught fire and burned down. We donated the hat and raised several thousand dollars to help him in this situation. Because they’re just Marines helping other Marines.
The League also hosts a big celebration for the Marines twice a year, and they make it their priority to honor the memory of fellow Marines who have lost their lives.
“We participate in virtually every Marine funeral that takes place locally,” Boganousi said. “He was a Marine, so that makes him a brother and part of the family.”
The league has another tradition: to celebrate members’ birthdays when they turn 90, each year in a unique way.
“They have what they call a driveway,” Andresen said.
“We’ll take the cake, and usually I buy one of these giant postcards and invite as many Marines as possible to sign it,” Boganovsi said. “Then we’ll drive past their house and honk and wave Marine flags.”
“This is a special time. All the neighbors are waking up because of the horn and all this activity, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Andresen, who has already been on the host twice.
“We’ll stop, cut the cake, hand out cards, sing birthday greetings and the Marine Corps anthem,” Boganovsi said.
“And these things are just great,” said 90-year-old league member Roy Edwards. “They have become souvenirs.”
The camaraderie and connection is second to none as they continue to serve the community and each other.
“At my 90s, I would still go out and protect my brothers’ backs if it came to that,” Edwards said.
“The fisherman sees the fisherman from afar. Well, that’s what it is,” Vogel said. “If shit hits a fan, you know what these guys are going to do – they’ll be right in the middle of that fan.”
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