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VFW chief tours Chambersburg

March 30, 1999

VFW ChiefBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When Thomas Pouliot flew off aircraft carriers in Vietnam he was a member of the crew of a plane. Today he is commander in chief of nearly 2 million veterans across the country.

Pouliot, national commander of more than 10,000 VFW posts, came to Chambersburg Monday to meet with local vets, hear complaints and tour historic sites. He moved around town with a police escort on stops between the Kittochinny Historic Society's museum on King street for a tour of the old jail building, a visit with veterans at a nursing home and a banquet at Local Post No. 1599.

He began his Franklin County tour at the Scotland School for Veterans Children in Scotland, Pa.

Pouliot, who is a city judge in Helena, Mont., his home town, said VFW commanders serve for three years in the veterans organization's top three posts, including junior and senior commander and commander-in-chief. He is in his third year. "We try to visit each of the 50 states in those three years," he said.

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The last time a national commander visited Chambersburg was five years ago, said Allen E. Melius, local post commander.

Pouliot is spending five days in Pennsylvania visiting local posts and veterans hospitals. He said so far veterans in the Keystone State are faring well. "They're getting timely, quality care," he said.

Nationally, the Veterans Administration is underfunded, he said. "We can't take any more cuts. We have to be fully funded in 2000," he said.

He said he met with President Clinton last week and asked for 15 percent more than Clinton proposed in his budget for next year.

Concerning the ongoing U.S. bombing in Kosovo, Pouliot said VFW members are on record as opposing the use of U.S. ground troops. "That still holds, but at this time we support the mission as it is with air strikes."

He said the VFW supports President Clinton's position that the conflict in the Balkans is a threat to national security. "They were the site of the beginning of two world wars. We have to stop the fighting there to keep it from spreading.

"There is also a humanitarian standpoint. People are being killed, driven from their homes and having their homes burned behind them," he said. If the bombing doesn't bring the Serbs to the peace table, then the VFW could change its position on ground troops, he said.

Dr. Harry Haddon, 74, a member of Kittochtinny board of directors, led Pouliot and his entourage, including Albert S. Thomas Jr., state commander, plus staff and other high-ranking VFW officers, on the tour of the old jail building, now a museum to local history.

The jail was built in 1818 and housed prisoners until 1972 when the Franklin County Prison opened.

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