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A few years back, Rick Tabor, an Air Force veteran, was watching the Albany Veteran’s Day Parade when a World War I vet went by in a car. Tabor instantly saluted the man.

“When he saluted back it sent a chill up my back,” Tabor said. “It was a special moment.”

It’s a special bonding experience, typical for Linn-Benton Community College Veteran’s Club members like Tabor. And it’s one club members will likely have again on Monday when they participate in the parade for the second time. It’s an important day for each one.

“Those of us who take part get a lot out of it,” said Mica Smith, club president. “When you see a child waving a flag or a World War II vet stand up and thank you, that’s humbling.”

Smith said the parade is a highlight, but the club is active all year long. It’s been that way since it was organized a few years ago. LBCC instructor Lewis Franklin has been the club’s advisor since he returned from duty in Iraq in 2010.

“I think Lynne Cox was the driving force behind the club,” Franklin said. “It got going while I was deployed.”

The club meets weekly on campus and focuses entirely on providing aid and service to veterans enrolled at LBCC.

The club can provide help for vets going through the enrollment process, securing benefits or filling out financial aid papers. One important service is book sharing with other vets.

“It’s veterans connecting with veterans,” Smith said. “We want to help find out what issues they may have and help get those resolved.”

Smith, 41, served 10 years in the Army. He grew up in Lebanon and is studying graphic arts at LBCC.

He said he heard about the veterans club from a friend and started attending meetings. He’s been in the club for three years.

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The club is open to anyone on campus, man or woman, veteran or not. Smith said the only requirement they impress on people is that they support vets.

“We’ve had members who may not support the war but do support the veterans in it,” he said.

The club was honored last year as one of LBCC’s two top active clubs. Vice President Joshua Hill, an Army vet, said the club raises funds to donate food and services to vets in need.

“Last year a vet and his family were living in a motor home with no electricity,” Hill said. “We were able to help them out to make it through the winter.”

Bake sales and other fundraisers bring in money to help needy vets.

Hill said recruiting is mostly word-of-mouth or through posters. Sometimes it’s just speaking to a class.

Club members are a close-knit group. They range in age from their 20s to their 60s, like club treasurer Michael Miller of Albany, who is active in most events and even contributes to the bake sales.

“I’m the old guy,” said Miller, who is club treasurer. “But I like being involved with this.”

The club is also active in bringing awareness to veterans. Each year it stages a vigil on campus for Memorial Day. It is already in the planning stages for 2014.

“It’s not about war stories,” Smith said. “We are here to help each other.”

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Steve Lathrop is the business reporter for the Albany Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at 541-812-6076 or by email at steve.lathrop@lee.net.

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