- Benefits and Services
- Suicide Prevention
By Chuck N. Baker
(Las Vegas) — Being hospitalized can sometimes lead to days of loneliness. To help counter that, VA and other government employees do what they can to assist veterans in VA facilities and keep their spirits high. In addition, many outside veterans groups make regular visits to medical facilities and engage patients in conversation as well as present them with small toiletry items and reading material. Often those making the visits were once VA patients themselves, and they know first-hand how much interaction can mean to those who are bedridden.
There are several non-veteran, non-profit service groups that are charged with helping the veterans community. One such group is the Masonic Service Association, whose members are more generally known as Masons.
Masons can be found helping others virtually all over the world. When natural catastrophes arise such as volcanoes, floods, hurricanes and related weather events, Masons are there to help in many ways. But the Hospital Visitation Program is considered exceptional by Masonic leaders. According to a statement on their official website, “… the Service Association deems this program their major relief work.”
In Southern Nevada, the Mason Program Coordinator is Michael J. Clark. He is quick to point out that he and his other volunteers engage in much more than just visitations to the disabled and lonely patients at the VA, and in state veterans homes such as the one in Boulder City, as well as extended care facilities. “We render personal services to all our sons and brothers, Masons and non-Masons alike, who need someone to turn to for encouragement and to make life a little more pleasant,” he said.
The history of the Masonic Service Association goes back to WWI. Clark explained that during the First World War, the Masons approached the federal government and offered support for American troops. It had been determined that the organization was in a position to serve a useful and patriotic purpose helping the nation’s armed forces. But the government did not want to work with 49 separate Masonic Grand Lodges, one in each state. “So the Masonic Service Association was formed on a national scale and became the one organization the government could deal with,” Clark said. In time the association developed four basic functions that are still in force today. In descending order they are Education/Publications, VA Hospital Visitation, Disaster Relief and Public/Media Relations. When WWII began, the Masons opened service centers for the military. Similar to USO facilities, the centers featured food, music and dancing, often providing the last touch of home for troops before deploying overseas. When the war ended, the centers were closed.
Clark pointed out that although their work is serious, Masons can laugh at themselves and often do. The TV series “The Simpsons” spoofed the Masons by creating the fictional “Stonecutters Lodge.” At the end of the lodge meeting, the characters sang, “Who controls the British Crown? Who keeps the metric system down? Who Keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps Martians under wraps? We do! We Do!”
Clark said that all are welcome to attend the association’s annual BBQ and car show in the parking lot of the VA clinic on Pecos Road in North Las Vegas. It’s set for November 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
And he really means all are welcome. Even the Simpsons are invited.