ELKO — The conference room at the Red Lion Hotel & Casino was abuzz with activity Saturday night as the local chapter of the POW/MIA held their annual chili dinner fundraiser.
“We started this about five years ago and made around $500,” said Les Brown, director of the association.
“Last year we topped out at $10,000 and it just keeps getting bigger every year.”
“All of our proceeds from tonight’s dinner sales, silent auction and raffle will go to the National League of POW/MIA Families, which assists family members who undergo the stress of having a loved one held prisoner or missing in action.”
This year’s dinner brought a number of special guests including Bob and Jani Bergdahl, parents of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl who has been missing in action and held prisoner in Afghanistan by the Taliban since 2009.
Others included Tom and Nancy Engkiterra, who are regional POW/MIA coordinators for the western United States, and Ann-Mills Griffiths, executive director for the association in Washington D.C.
“It is my pleasure to come to this inspirational dedication put on by the chapter members and attended by so many people in this community,” Mills-Griffiths said. “The impact of tonight’s crowd in this small town is more than we see in some states.”
The evening began with a posting of the flags, the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Sheila Pollock and “Taps” played by Gene Russell. A welcome speech was presented by Brown. The setting of the table and placement of hats from the branches of the military was conducted at the head table. This signifies the spirit of attendance by all of those missing in action or held as prisoners of war.
The ceremonial act was followed by a prayer.
Two entire walls were lined with articles for the raffle and silent auction, donated by the community and local businesses. Approximately 300 people showed their support, each paying their way to sample some of the dozen or so types of chili homemade by the members of the local chapter of POW/MIA.
“Really, we owe a lot to Les Brown,” said Master of Ceremonies Colette Boyce.
“Without his hard work this event would never have come about and he is responsible for bringing the Bergdahls and others to Elko.”