Members of the armed forces are used to conducting missions. The Oregon Band of Brothers' mission is straightforward - and as important as any its members conducted back in the day.
That mission is: "To provide veterans and current members of the military with the opportunity to share friendship, camaraderie and assistance."
"We're a social organization," said Ray Hartzell, who serves as secretary-treasurer for both the state and the Bend chapter of the organization. There are no dues for membership, and the group maintains its informality even as it becomes an official non-profit organization.
As the Oregon Band of Brothers makes its status official, different cities are forming individual chapters. A new chapter is forming in Sisters. They meet on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. at Takoda's Restaurant.
The group has coalesced around three "staff" members - Merle Holm, Dave Culver, and Tom Barrier. Tom Salgado, who is not a veteran, has been awarded associate status for his tireless work in helping local veterans with medical issues.
"That guy is phenomenal," Barrier said.
Hartzell, a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, was one of the founders of the Bend Band of Brothers.
"Myself and eight other guys started going over to the Elks ... in 2006 for coffee," he said, recalling the origins of the outfit.
"Veterans will talk to veterans, that's the thing," said Barrier, who served for a total of 14 years as a U.S. Army officer, including tours of duty in Vietnam.
Talking with folks who have experience in common, who understand the particular stresses, strains, and satisfactions of military service is important to veterans and active-duty service members, and can often prove therapeutic, Hartzell and Barrier explained.
The organization is also open to spouses and close relatives of military members - "any kind of blood connection to military service," Hartzell said.
After all, family members in effect are serving, too, facing the challenges of deployment, service-related medical issues and the lingering memories of war.
"There is a high degree of involvement with the spouses of military people," Hartzell said.
Barrier explained that more formal organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or the American Legion meet once a month and have a more formal structure. The Band of Brothers, with its weekly gatherings, is more about simply sharing some fellowship.
The Sisters chapter of Oregon Band of Brothers welcomes new attendees. For more information, contact Barrier at 541-408-5594 or Hartzell at 541-977-7883. For more information on the organization, visit www.oregonbandofbrothers.org.