February 8, 2014

Francis David Sommer
May 12, 1983 - February 11, 2011
Saint Lawrence Seaway, October 2005
by
Robert F. Sommer

Nearby a gull rests on a rock
at the edge of water blue and smooth

you’ve come through war at twenty-two    
to the water blue and smooth

fire crackles
warms us on the banks      
of water blue and smooth

I can see the next war
in the shadows of your eyes
on the shore of water blue and smooth

silence fills the wind seasons will pass 
before the next war returns us
to water blue and smooth

we tend the fire watch the gull
wait for war to bring you back
to water blue and smooth

  © Robert F. Sommer 2014
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October 26, 2013

Veterans Day, the holidays, and veterans in need

“War is always very hard on family and friends and even harder for men and women coming home who didn’t die but have lost forever pieces of their bodies, minds and souls.” 
              
“My daughter and I very much appreciate the items we received from you all. It would be a better world if there were more folks like you…. This is a better Thanksgiving than we were expecting.”
Francis at Rocky Mountain National
Park, September 2007, the month he
was discharged from active duty with
the 10th Mountain Division.

These are quotes from letters we received from veterans who benefitted from contributions in Francis’s memory to the Kansas City VA Medical Center’s Voluntary Services Unit.

On any given night an estimated 62,000 veterans sleep on streets, on park benches, beneath overpasses, and in alleys somewhere in America—if you call that sleep. Twice that many veterans will be homeless sometime in the course of the next twelve months. Here in the Kansas City region the nightly figure is about 1,800 veterans without shelter.

Numbers that big are like smoke—you can’t grab hold of just one. A crowd isn’t a person—an individual, a face. Seems like the larger the number, the less real it becomes.

Francis asked me one day if we had some old clothes we no longer wore. He’d just come home from the Kansas City VA Medical Center, where he’d met some of the men and women who needed help. He wanted to do something. He would start by gathering up whatever he could at home. But his real gift was cooking. That’s what he'd do — treat veterans served by the KCVA’s Voluntary Services Unit to his own recipe for chili.

Since losing Francis over two years ago, we have tried to continue his spirit of good will toward fellow veterans. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of people all over the country, over $21,000 has been raised in Francis’s memory for the KCVA to serve the needs of these men and women.

This past spring we were also privileged to have Francis’s godfather Dave lead the “Ride to Francis,” raising over $4,000 as he rode his motorcycle from New York to Francis’s resting place at Leavenworth National Cemetery in time for Memorial Day. (Read Dave's trip notes and postscript in the May and July 2013 archive on the right.)

As Veterans Day and the holidays approach, please remember our veterans and keep them in your thoughts.

To read more excerpts from letters we’ve received from veterans and generous donors, click here.

To contribute:
Kansas City VA
Voluntary Services 135
4801 Linwood Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64128
Make your check to the KCVA and please note on the memo line:
Francis D. Sommer Memorial Fund

One hundred percent of your donation is used to provide goods and services to our neediest veterans. The Veterans Administration covers all of the overhead.