Vets say thanks to patriotic business owner

Littleton VFW honors Dave Wood, who cleans uniforms for free

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Dave Wood cleans military members’ uniforms for free.
 
That means something to men and women who have worn some pretty dirty uniforms.
 
Wood, the owner of Lapels Dry Cleaning at Pierce Street and Coal Mine Avenue, was recognized by the Pat Hannon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4666 at the post’s June 11 meeting, in honor of his practice of providing free uniform cleaning for active duty and retired military. Wood also cleans American flags and veterans’ hats for free, and offers deep discounts for first responders.
 
Wood received a standing ovation from the post’s members, who have served in combat from Okinawa to Baghdad.
 
“It’s humbling, really,” Wood said after receiving his citation.
 
“These guys are the heroes. I just do what I can to say thank you.”
 
Recognizing patriots like Wood is important, said Bill Baldaccini, head of the post’s Americanism Committee, which seeks to boost American pride.
 
“Our heritage has been a stalwart champion of patriotic values, morals, culture and citizenship,” Baldaccini told the crowd of veterans and their families. “Our pursuit of Americanism embodies our devotion to law and order, the raising of wholesome youth, educated and law-abiding citizenship, and respectful observance of patriotic holidays and remembrances.”
 
Though Wood is not a veteran himself, he said his interaction with veterans has imbued him with a deeper appreciation for the trials they face — both in foreign combat zones and on the home front.
 
Wood recalled a young man who showed up at the dry cleaners at closing time, asking for his uniform to be cleaned — and made ready an hour before Wood opened again in the morning.
 
When Wood asked about the tight turnaround, the young man said he had a funeral to attend in the morning: the fifth member of his platoon to die by suicide since returning from combat in Afghanistan.
 
Wood met the deadline, and the young man thanked him by giving him a nameplate from his uniform.
 
“Whenever I look at that nameplate,” Wood said, “It helps me keep things in perspective. It makes me realize things in my life aren’t so bad.”
 
Littleton’s VFW post currently has 130 members, and helps raise money for a variety of veterans’ causes, Baldaccini said.
 
Like many fraternal organizations, the VFW is struggling to attract younger members, said Nate Smith, a veteran of the Gulf War and Iraq who joined with his dad, Jerry Smith, who served in World War II and Korea.
 
For one thing, Smith said, there are so many more veterans’ organizations now than in decades past.
 
“It’s also a time thing,” Smith said. “These are young guys who come back and are eager to start a career, to start a family. People don’t have a lot of free time. But we do have a lot to offer.”
 
The VFW also provides camaraderie for those who served their country in dark places and times, Stone said.
 
“When we came back from Vietnam, we really weren’t treated so well,” Stone said. “After the Gulf War in the 1990s, the attitude toward veterans started to change. After that, we said we’d never let another group of veterans be treated like we were. You can see that pride here tonight.”

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