Departing VFW commander delivered flags to grieving widows, benefits to disabled veterans.
For the past two years, Jose Rosa has delivered more than 40 flags to grieving widows and mothers at veterans' funerals in Port Orange. He has fought to give veterans access to benefits they might never have received otherwise. But as of now, Rosa is no longer the commander of the Port Orange VFW.
Rosa and his wife, Martha, attended the 119th VFW National Convention from July 21 to July 25, in Kansas City, where Rosa was given All-American Post Commander status for the second year in a row, completing his elected term. Post 3282 has 1,100 members, plus another 500 in the auxiliary.
"The general population is very appreciative of our veterans now; years ago they weren't," said Rosa, who reflected on his own service in Vietnam. In his military career, he was in the Air Force, the Air National Guard, and served at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa during Enduring Freedom in 2002. "It's because of ... people who have the drive, like me, to make the general public aware that the veterans need help in getting back into society, and getting knowledge of what benefits are there for them. Most veterans have no idea of all the benefits that are provided to them in this day and age."
Benefits for veterans
Last year, when the veterans office in Daytona Beach was shut down due to hurricane-related flooding, Port Orange veterans had to drive to Orange City to get help with benefits. It was unacceptable to ask that of disabled veterans, Rosa said, so he asked for help from his neighbor, Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler.
Wheeler first got to know Rosa when they served on their condo board together, and "his love and passion for veterans stood out immediately," she wrote in an email. He was "relentless" in wanting to get Port Orange veterans access to benefits at Post 3282, and Wheeler helped make it happen. A veterans services counselor, Jason Althouse, is now stationed at the post on a walk-in basis every Thursday, and it's been "very successful," Wheeler said.
Althouse said Rosa's passion for helping veterans has always been evident.
"That was his whole function," Althouse said. "He would go out of his way to help any kind of veteran — dependent, surviving spouse, anybody — whether it be with a hot meal or putting a roof over a homeless veteran for the night."
Rosa isn't done. In fact, he's now taking on a broader role, after being elected as senior vice commander of Florida District 19 of the VFW, which covers Volusia and Flagler counties.
He said he will continue to serve on the board for the Veterans Museum and Education Center, at 166 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach (see http://www.vmaec.org/). He's also on the board of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1048. And he said he's already bought his brick to support the Volusia County Veterans Memorial Plaza (see http://www.brickmarkersusa.com/donors/volusia.html).
But while he'll still be busy helping veterans in new capacities, Rosa will miss being part of the color guard at the local veterans' funerals and delivering the flags.
"That's a very emotional ceremony that we do," he said. "We're giving a veteran his last due respect. When I hand the flag to the grieving spouse or mother, and they're always crying and thanking me so much, I feel it's my honor to do that for them."