Greene stands ready to help veterans in a time of need

Published 8:29 am Monday, June 26, 2023

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By Angela Cutrer
Star correspondent
Kelly Greene is the commander of a local American Legion. He takes his job very seriously; after all, he’s a vet and those he helps are veterans as well.
Sometimes it seemed as if it was an uphill battle. Greene couldn’t even become a member of the legion until 2019 when President Donald Trump signed into law the LEGION Act.
“This opens the door for a lot of veterans,” Greene told the Star back in 2019. He meant that before, the legion only accepted membership from veterans who served before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The bill meant that the Cold War onward is now counted as war-time.
“I was the first new member after the bill,” he said then. He was elected commander almost immediately.
Flash forward a few years and Greene is still soldiering on. His phone number seems to be on everyone’s list when it comes to helping a veteran in dire need. He’s known for driving vets where they need to go, putting them up in hotels or bringing them a hot meal.
And he does all that with sincere concern and love for his fellow veterans. “It’s the right thing to do,” he says with emotion.
Greene continues to advocate for veterans. He has seen membership rise and fall – the last time due to COVID-19. It’s difficult to conduct veteran funerals without enough members to participate.
Now in his fifth year as commander of American Legion Post 49 Watauga, Greene hopes to rebuild membership by teaming up with Post 24 in Johnson City.
The Post 49’s Facebook is chocked full of opportunities for new members to join in to help other veterans. “We honor our veterans [this way],” he said. “We should know who [our veterans] are, their names, what they did, their family members’ names. It should be an honor to do this, know them and offer help when it is needed.”
Greene is silent for a moment, trying to control his breathing. As a vet helping other vets, he’s passionate about what he does. “Our biggest accomplishment is that we have a homeless veteran outreach program here,” he says. “We should serve those who served our nation.
“I work with the Volunteers of America and that’s a great organization. They help when we can’t.” He tells the true story of a vet displaced from his house after a tree fell on it. The post members and other concerned people came together to help get this man back into his home, a gift card to purchase items needed and enough food to keep him satisfied for a while.
Greene says that when a vet has a problem at home, many service providers will come fix the problem for free, donating their time to help someone else. Greene is happy there are people like that in the area.
Greene and his wife have spent more than $1,000 this year out of their own pockets to put homeless vets up in hotels. Greene drives vets to their doctor’s visits, even when it is far from their Valley Forge home.
And Greene does all this with though he’s on oxygen himself for COPD.
During his lifetime, he joined the Marines at 17, then worked construction and home building afterward. He turns 65 in October, but he’s not worried about doing “too much.”
“I understand what these vets are going through, and if my time comes to an end, I’m ready,” he says with conviction.
If you are interested in joining up with Greene and his other Legionnaires, call 423-895-3819. Greene thinks you won’t regret it.

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