“It’s a day that I kind of look back and I kind of remember what went on in the past. You remember the guys you served with, what happened to them, so it's also kind of a day of remembrance.”
Vietnam-era Army veteran Jim Hordinski was talking about today, Veterans Day. And while during an interview done a week or so prior to Veterans Day might seem an odd time to wish for the end of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), to Hordinski the thought makes perfect sense.
“I love the VFW and I work hard for the VFW, but if we had no more wars there would be no need for the VFW,” Hordinski said. “No more wars is not something I see happening, but it’s certainly something I would like to see happen.”
Hordinski served five years as commander of North Ridgeville’s VFW Post 9871.
He is currently the Ohio vice senior state commander and will serve as state commander beginning in June.
Hordinski was a member of the Army Reserve from 1967 through 1971, leaving the service as a corporal. He got called up and sent to Vietnam in late 1967, less than a year after joining the reserve. He was 23 and spent two years overseas.
“I don’t believe anybody especially wanted to go,” Hordinski said. “It wasn’t my first choice as a vacation spot, I can tell you that. But you go where they tell you to go.”
He adds the Vietnam conflict clearly was motivated by politics as are all wars, in his opinion.
Hordinski had a couple of distinctive jobs during the war. He started out in graves registration then became a bath specialist.
“We had mobile shower units we would fly into different landing zones or fire bases to supply showers and clean clothes for the guys in the field,” he said.
Hordinski said his arrival back in the states was not, as was common for Vietnam vets, all it could have been.
“We received absolutely no respect,” he said. “They didn’t respect what we did over there. They didn’t respect us as soldiers.”
Hordinski notes thankfully things have changed for today’s soldiers when they return home.
“They deserve everything they get when they come back, no doubt,” he said. “I don’t specifically know if it was 9/11 that changed people’s minds, but these guys get a lot of respect. I think people realized when you put your life on the line, you deserve that.”
Hordinski states for some who served overseas, their experiences will never quite come to an end. He notes the Vietnam era featured the initial recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Now 76, Hordinski still regularly attends meetings of a PTSD support group.
Born on the east side of Cleveland, Hordinski now calls North Ridgeville home. He does not consider himself a member of a military family, but his son, James Jr., recently retired after 30 years in the Navy, serving in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Regarding his upcoming service as commander of the Ohio VFW, Hordinski said he wants to continue helping the VFW beyond being involved in the local post. He has held the office of district commander along with other leadership roles. Once he made the decision to try for state VFW office, he traveled around Ohio promoting himself to the VFW rank-and-file who vote for state officers.
“You first run for what they call ‘department surgeon,’” Hordinski said, adding he won election to that post four years ago.
The state surgeon oversees setting up hospital visits for vets and similar activities.
State officers move up to the next-highest post annually. Hordinski said once he becomes state commander his initial plan is to “keep things rolling just the way they are.” But he also stated a need to deal with the pandemic’s effect on the VFW.
Hordinski said Post 9871 will do anything possible to help any vet. He said the post helps former military personnel in gaining benefits, but has also provided those in need with temporary lodging, food or gas money.
“There is nobody who does more for vets than the VFW,” Hordinski said.
The local VFW post also involves itself in community activities, most recently sponsoring a fundraising drive-through spaghetti dinner benefiting the North Ridgeville Senior Center. The post also supports Community Care, among numerous other activities.
Closed for a time because of the pandemic, the VFW hall and canteen reopened in May with limited hours and limited numbers, approximately 30, allowed inside at any one time.
Post 9871 has approximately 320 members. Hordinski notes Ohio has the sixth-largest population of veterans among the 50 states. That translates to about 53,000 VFW members in the statewide organization Hordinski will oversee beginning next year. He added the actual number of veterans in Ohio is probably two or three times that number.
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