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Omaha marines taking care of community, other marines: 'It’s all about service, you know?'

Breakfast with the Marine Corps League - Miguel Keith Detachment 609
Posted at 6:57 PM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-15 05:55:31-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It’s a Friday morning breakfast tradition at the Omaha Hy-Vee on 96th and Q.

“I came to one of the meetings and I got hooked,” 91-year-old Leroy Andresen said.

He got hooked on the Omaha Marine Corps League — Miguel Keith Detachment 609; a group of marine veterans who continue to serve others.

“We have more members in our league here at the Miguel Keith attachment than all of the rest of the state of Nebraska combined,” league member Terry Kempf said.

“They feel like their time has been well spent and they keep coming back for more,” league commandant, Jerry Boganowsi, said. “Because they feel like they are contributing, like they’re doing something.”

The list of volunteer services for the community is endless. They play a big role in Toys for Tots, in which more than 130,000 gifts were collected this year than the previous year.

They also played a significant role in spearheading the Marine Memorial at Memorial Park and the renovation of Miguel Keith Park.

“Miguel Keith was an Omaha North High graduate who gave his life in Vietnam protecting his friends and his fellow marines and earned the Medal of Honor doing it,” Boganowsi said. “So, we feel compelled to take care of his legacy, just like the legacy of the other two Medal of Honor recipients (Edward Gomez and James Meredith).”

Once a month, for more than 14 years now, the group goes to the park that shares the name with the league detachment — cleaning it up and ensuring it, and the Miguel Keith Memorial, remains in good shape.

“If I tell them we have a function — if we’re gonna do Toys for Tots, or if we’re going to clean up the park, or take care of the Medal of Honor graves — they just come out," Boganowsi said.

The league is the longest-running volunteer group for Keep Omaha Beautiful.

“Just an organization of marines who still contribute,” league member, George Vogel, said.

“It’s all about service, you know?” Kempf said.

Their service continues to current marines in need of help.

“One marine, his mom’s house caught fire and burned down. We passed the hat and raised several thousand dollars to help with that situation for him. Because it’s just marines helping other marines.”

The league also serves marines a big feast twice a year and they make it a priority to honor fellow marines who have lost their lives.

“We’re involved in just about any marine funeral that happens locally,” Boganowsi said. “He was a marine so that makes him a brother and part of the family.”

The league has another tradition: celebrating members’ birthdays once they reach 90 years old, each year, in a unique way.

“They have what they call drive-bys,” Andresen said.

“We’ll get a cake and typically I will buy one of them giant cards and get as many marines as possible to sign it,” Boganowsi said. “Then we will drive by their house, honking our horns, waving Marine Corps flags.”

“It’s a special time. The neighbors all wake up because of the honking and all the activity, but it’s a lot of fun,” Andresen, who has been on the receiving end twice now, said.

“We will stop, cut up the cake, hand out the card, sing happy birthday and the marine corps hymn,” Boganowsi said.

“And those things are just great,” 90-year-old league member Roy Edwards said. “They’ve become mementos.”

The comradery and connection are unmatched, as they continue to serve the community and each other.

“At 90, I’d still go out and defend the backs of my brothers if it came to that,” Edwards said.

“Birds of a feather flock together. Well, that’s what this is.” Vogel said. “If the s*** hits the fan you know what these guys are going to do — they’re going to be right in the middle of that fan.”

The league is always looking for more members. For more information click here.

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