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Santa steams into Long Meadow Shopping Center

November 30, 1996

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Santa's annual appearance at the Long Meadow Shopping Center on Friday to visit with local boys and girls is just one of the community activities sponsored by a little-known faction of the American Legion that has a big hand in helping promote nursing and child welfare.

The Voiture Locale, otherwise known as the 40/8, is the honor society of the American Legion, said Don Hetzer, past grand chef degare of the group.

On Friday the group gave children free rides around the shopping center in a motorized locomotive. Local residents may have seen or ridden the locomotive at other local events, such as the Fun Day earlier this year at the Potomac Center.

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"Nurses training is the big thing with the 40/8," said Hetzer, 50, of Hagerstown. "We feel that there's a shortage of nurses" - in general and for veterans.

The group provides scholarships each year to some nursing students at Hagerstown Junior College. This school year the group is sponsoring two women in the nurses training program with at least partial scholarships, he said.

They will select scholarship winners in June for the next school year, he said. The only stipulation is that the students must pursue a job in the nursing field.

While the scholarships don't contain any stipulation that the nursing students find employment at veterans hospitals, it is the group's hope that the students will use their skills to help veterans, Hetzer said.

Washington County's Voiture Locale No. 651, which started in the 1940s, has about 80 members, he said.

The Voiture Locale or 40/8 was formed along with the American Legion during World War I. To be invited to join the honor society, a person must be an American Legion member in good standing and who has served the legion as an officer, committee member or worked for the legion, Hetzer said.

The name 40/8 comes from the boxcars most soldiers were transported in during World War I in France, Hetzer said.

The trains had 40/8 stamped on the outside because they could carry 40 soldiers or eight mules, he said.

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