Sam Lanza has been a member of the Disabled American Veterans for many, many years.
Sam is a good friend of mine. At 86, he gets around well. He's always in a good mood, cheerful as can be. He stops by my office regularly, always with a firm handshake and a grin. ''How are you, my friend,'' he says quite often.
But the other day he stopped by and was not in a pleasant mood. I knew it the minute I saw him. Turns out he has an issue with the DAV.
It may not seem important to a lot of people, but the colors on the front of the DAV magazine have for many years been red, white and blue. For some reason, a decision was made to change the colors to green and something else. For a man like Sam, that is unacceptable.
He said he had written a letter to those in charge of making the decision. Sam, who lives in Warren, said, ''I have been a member of the DAV since 1948 and I believe I am a veteran advocate. I have lived, eaten, breathed and slept and believed in the veterans of this great country of ours.
''I love the colors red, white and blue, they represent the United States of America, they are the colors of our flag, they have been the colors of the letters DAV as long as I can remember them, in fact I am looking at a magazine dated May 1979, and the same red, white and blue colors are on it.
''I fought for that flag, I fought under that flag, was wounded on Okinawa on April 22, 1945 ... I, along with many other veterans went ballistic when we saw those ugly colors on that magazine now.
''I would like to know who gave the approval for those very ugly colors. The members don't seem to remember ever being asked that question by our national headquarters.
''I have signed up a large amount of members since being a member of the DAV and was very proud doing so. I have always been DAV-oriented and praised the DAV to the sky every day of my life. When you saw that magazine anywhere, you didn't have to look to see whose it was, you just knew it was the DAV.
''Also, those colors do not run. I have missed one state convention since 1953 and one state conference, I was sick. I attended all district meetings but one. I have been to the state commanders dinners, calling hours, funerals, attended many for our national officers also. I have been to more than 25 national conventions, the 1971 year in Detroit for the 50th anniversary and honored Bob Hope that year.''
Those are some powerful words, and one has to have a lot of respect for this man. But here is the kicker:
''I WAS a very proud member of the DAV and doing all I can for the veterans, but they have taken my pride away with those ugly colors on the magazine, so that's the end of an era as far as I am concerned. I don't like the new motto 'moving into the future,' and especially with those colors. Red, white and blue are still my favorite colors. Thanks for nothing.''
You have to have a lot of respect for someone like Sam. I have always been told there is no such thing as a retired or former Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Just not always a member of the DAV.
And the timing couldn't be worse, with Veterans Day coming up in a week.
Robinson is the editor of the Tribune Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org