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27back roads/MD

DODGE CENTER — Lea Flury doesn’t know the veterans she’s helping with a clothes drive but that doesn’t matter. They are veterans. They need help. That’s all she needs to know.

"Sure, I help all the veterans," she said. "That’s what we’re here for."

The Dodge Center woman is veterans affairs officer for the Dodge Center American Legion Auxiliary, and one of her jobs is to lead a project for veterans each year. Sometimes she collects money; this fall, it’s the clothing drive.

Several years ago, donations nearly filled a van, leaving barely enough room for the driver and two passengers. She liked that. She wants to do it again.

Clothes are sent in time for a "stand down" at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs hospital when homeless veterans, or any veterans, can pick up clothes they need to make it through winter. Many of them are homeless, suffering from a mental illness, and need help, she said. There’s an "unbelievable amount of them, women too," she said.

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Flury said she grew up in West Bend, Iowa, and moved to this area to go to nursing school in Rochester. She met Darrold "Buzz" Flury and they married. Their families have a strong military tradition. "I have two uncles who were in the service, a brother, two brothers-in-law, that’s my side of the family," she said. "My son was a 20-year man in the service; my husband was in Korea."

It’s just something about their families that they want to serve. "We are just loyal, dedicated Americans," she said.

Flury doesn’t believe she’s doing anything special, she’s just part of the much larger picture of auxiliaries and others helping those who served in the armed forces. "There are a lot of people working on it, doing good," she said.

The clothing drive began last week, with collection boxes at Dodge Center City Hall and the American Legion. After one day, she found the box full at city hall and several more bags next to it.

She recognized one man’s parka; that had a touching story behind it. It was donated by the man’s widow.

And then there were those big, gaudy red longjohns; that had a funny story. Her daughter, Cathy Radil, owns Cathy’s on Main restaurant in West Concord and was complaining that she was going to freeze in the dress she was to wear to her daughter’s wedding.

A customer bought the longjohns for her as a gag and she donated them to the clothing drive. Maybe this winter a veteran will be warmer because of that.

She likes to think so.

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"I feel sorry for a disadvantaged person, shed tears every time someone dies in Iraq," she said.

Staff writer John Weiss travels the region’s back roads looking for people, places and things of interest for this column. If you have ideas, call him at (507) 285-7749 or e-mail him at weiss@postbulletin.com.

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