Veteran Dedicated to Vets
Lou Riedlinger served the United States in World War II and again during the Korean War. Riedlinger thinks about those currently serving on the front lines every day and he enlisted the help of his United Methodist church to make sure that others also recognize their sacrifice.
(Locator: Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Lou Riedlinger: "First of all, we're lucky to be a veteran. Okay? We're lucky to have supported our country. I served in both World War II and the Korean conflict. And so I have a very soft spot in my heart for veterans. We want to remind the people, 'Don't forget the veterans."
Lou and Dotty Riedlinger are a driving force behind events like this Veterans Day remembrance at their church, First United Methodist of Lancaster, Pennsylvania where Lou has been a member for 60 years.
Lou Riedlinger, First United Methodist Church of Lancaster, PA: "I think it's important to pass down to the church and to the younger people in the church what veterans have endured during all the wars. And I get annoyed once in a while that people seem to ignore the fact that we're even in a war."
Lou is glad to see people taking the time to write cards, which he delivers to hospitalized vets.
(Girls read cards) "Thank you veterans. Thank you so much for all your hard work and dedication. Thanks for your service."
Lou Riedlinger: "I was glad to enlist when I did. My parents weren't too happy about it, but I was. We're always told 'This is the last war.' Well, that has not happened. And so the veterans represent the sacrifices that people made, the nights that were spent in a cold trench over in Europe, stuff like that."
The Riedlingers saw the need for a veterans program in 2007. It has evolved over the years.
Lou Riedlinger: "The name of the ministry is the Armed Services Support Ministry. We were greeters at the church on a Sunday. And opposite where we were standing were a number of containers for the different ministries-the prison ministry, the food bank and other ministries. And Dotty and I said to each other, 'There's nothing for the veterans.' So the minister came by and we asked him about this. And he says, 'Well, we'll have to do something.' And as you know when you start asking questions you get the job. From 2007 to 2011, over that four year period, we collected $11,000 for phone cards. That was some 2300 phone cards that we collected. We decided that now our efforts would go toward the Veterans Hospital and their needs since we have a Veterans Hospital only 20 miles from here in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. They came up with a certain list of the needs that they had. And that included underwear, socks, chewing gum, crossword puzzle books."
Dotty Riedlinger: "We're starting a new ministry for making lap blankets...
Lou: "...for the wheelchaired patients."
Dotty: "Isn't that neat?" (Tosses blanket on table)
Lou Riedlinger: "My advice to other people in other churches that would want to start a veterans ministry, work with the VFW and American Legion and find out what veterans in your area have for needs. Is there a veteran's wife that needs the lawn cut? Do they need some help repairing their house? The church can get involved. You can start it with just a few people and it will expand. I'm proud to be a United Methodist from a veteran's standpoint. The church recognizes the difficulty it is to walk the line of being peaceful and yet sometimes there is action that has to be taken that's not peaceful in order to preserve what we have. I like that feeling that they pray for peace. They want peace. But it's not always possible. Sometimes we have to take a stand."
For more information on the Armed Services Support Ministry, contact First United Methodist Church at 717-394-7231, or on the web at EngageGodFirst.org.
Editor's note: Lou Reidlinger died in March, 2017.
This story was first published on April 15, 2013.