VFW puts on a picnic

Members of VAQ-142, the Gray Wolves, get food and drink during their command picnic Friday at NAS Whidbey Island. Dennis Connolly/Whidbey Crosswind

Last Friday was a good day for a picnic.

Just ask any of the folks who showed up at Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142’s picnic at Costen-Turner Memorial Park on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. By 11 a.m. the fog had cleared to offer sunny skies and warm temperatures. The breeze was light.

Approximately 175 people were there; the grounds were lovely and the food was great by any standard.

And no one from VAQ-142 had to spend a dime on food.

That’s because the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Whitehead-Muzzall Post 7392 in Oak Harbor hosted the Gray Wolves’ command picnic.

They used the VFW’s Military Assistance Program, and all they asked for from the Navy was to set up a small sunshade near the picnic area to answer questions and provide information about the VFW. They also asked for room for Myron Brundidge, also known as “Andy” the clown, to perform for the children.

Andy the Clown, aka Myron Brundidge , makes balloon animals and answers questions from his young audience. Dennis Connolly/Whidbey Crosswind

“It was a good picnic, a good day,” said Gunner’s Mate First Class Matthew Kelly, along with his wife, Amanda,  and their child, Lydia.

They were sitting at a table finishing some burgers.

Navy Counselor First Class, Kristin Cruz, agreed.

Cruz did much of the preparation.

When the squadron priced the cost of the picnic out to $900, she thought of getting the VFW to help.

She got in touch with VAQ-142 Command Master Chief Paul McFadden, who got in touch with Pete Sill, former VFW post commander, and the picnic was on.

“Master Chief McFadden called and he had heard of MAP, the Military Assistance Program,” said Sill. “We got together with NC1 Kristin Cruz and found out how many people were going, how much food they were going to have and a detailed price list.”

There was still work to be done.

Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman Rachel Jasso helped to bake and pull 100 pounds of pork shoulder. It took nine hours. The dunk tank had to be set up, the human foosball court had to be blown up and the food had to be brought in.

From left, VFW Post 7392 members Sam Miller, Kristy Miller, Pete Sill and Thomas Catoire take time out from helping with the picnic to pose for a photo. Dennis Connolly/Whidbey Crosswind

The menu included pulled pork, brats, potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, veggie burgers, watermelon, sodas, juice boxes and more, including items like plates and condiments.

The kids seemed happy, just being there. They either questioned Andy the Clown, were out of breath from playing, or heading out for more exercise.

The adults were gathered around, talking and relaxed.

It was a very good day for a picnic indeed.

“It just an honor,” said Sill. “It’s our small way of appreciating what they do.”