Letter: Reactions to request for assistance felt disrespectful

Editor,

With all the notice that the “old boy’s clubs” are getting and struggles that women are having for being appreciated and respected for their strengths right now, you would think that some of them are taking notice and changing their policies.

If you assume this about the Oak Harbor American Legion, you are sadly mistaken.

I am a disabled veteran who was recently diagnosed with a very serious and rare illness that is both chronic and progressive. I also happen to be a female who served 14 years in the Navy. Before getting this diagnosis and receiving my initial treatment, I bought a home. It needs serious work, including things like ramps leading up to the front door.

I was going to the thrift store and saw the Legion with its big flag and entry that felt welcoming: like coming home to the quarterdeck. Instead of getting to ask permission to come aboard though, I was expected to pay to even enter.

I walked through the door and was met by an older man who greeted me awkwardly. I told him that I was looking for help and he said that I could speak with the Veterans Service Officer, who was behind the bar.

When I approached the bar, all conversation stopped. I told the man behind the bar and everyone else there — which was humiliating — that I was looking for help.

I looked around pleadingly and asked if one of them was the VSO. Finally, the man behind the counter spoke up and said that it would be $45.

I said, “You are going to charge me $45 to speak to a VSO?”

He said, “no, you have to pay $45 to join the Legion in order to be in here.” Someone might just as well spit in my face.

He then discretely pulled me to the side and told me that the Lion’s Club may be able to help me. So, in addition to being humiliated, I was told that I would receive more help outside of my veteran’s safety net.

I got some weird looks from people as I left. I was so angry that I was gasping for breath and balling my eyes out while I was trying to struggle my way back to the thrift store on my walker.

So, advice to the readers, “Know the rules of an organization before you try to walk through their door. Especially if you are a female veteran walking into an “old boys’ club.”

Jacqueline Wilson

Oak Harbor

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