MONTE VISTA— Iraqi war veteran Bobby Mathis kept his audience enthralled with his thoughts and experiences about his Army service during his address to the Homelake Historic Preservation and Restoration Foundation’s annual meeting and fundraiser at Dos Rios on March 27.
Mathis, who attained the rank of staff sergeant, served two tours in Iraq—from 2005 to 2006 and 2007 to 2009--in the United States Army as a combat engineer. He also served in Kuwait, Germany and stateside at Fort Carson, Fort Hood, and Fort Leonard Wood.
An employee of the U.S. Forest Service here in the San Luis Valley, Mathis grew up in Cochran, Georgia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources and a master’s in Global Environmental Planning and Management and did not join the Army until his younger son—he married his wife Liz who gave him a ready-made family—enlisted in the service. From a service family himself with a dad who had served in the Air Force, Mathis decided to live his dream and join the Army so he left the forest service in Georgia and enlisted.
Mathis drew chuckles from his audience when he noted he was “the oldest guy, even older than the drill sergeant. They didn’t know what to do with me.”
He told the crowd about the relationships the Army brings. Injured in Iraq, Mathis said he and Liz later saw the medic who worked on him. That was in Colorado Springs and the medic was homeless. The homeless man asked him how he was doing. As Mathis told the story, he choked up.
“Here was a guy who had lost everything and he cared about his guys. Those were men, young men, who shaped my life,” Mathis said.
The service showed him that there were men who wanted to serve their country, “people who will give everything,” he said.
Also at the annual meeting, board incumbents Lewis Entz, Gene Farish, Bobbie Hatton, Jane Rhett and Jack Rudder were re-elected to 3-year terms. James Hill and Helen Dyer were elected to 1-year terms. One 2-year term and one 1-year term remain to be filled and can be filled by the board, which will hold its next quarterly meeting at 3 p.m. April 18 at the Homelake administration building. One needs to be a Foundation member—membership is $15 per person—in order to run for the board.
Homelake Museum director Jane Rhett presented former museum director Sue Getz and husband Glen Getz with a plaque honoring them for their years of service to the museum and the foundation. Sue Getz virtually founded the museum.
Rhett said that they have taken down the World War I exhibit at the museum and are in the process of erecting an exhibit on the Spanish-American War.
Rhett reported that the museum has acquired 18 new collections containing 530 items this past year including a World War I footlocker with numerous letters from WWI soldiers.
She said she needs more help in the museum and volunteers can contact her there.
Former State Senator Lewis Entz gave a special presentation to fellow board member Rio Grande County Commissioner Gene Glover remembering former county native Seaman Virgil Simon Off, who went down with the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The 30-year-old Off was the uncle of Gordon and Suzie Off of Del Norte. The plaque will be displayed at the Rio Grande County Courthouse and Off’s name will be included at the World War II memorial plaque at Homelake and the San Luis Valley Museum in Alamosa.
Entz was recognized for his donation of $13,350 for the monument displaying the plaques with the names of Rio Grande County residents who served in the world wars—300 plus in World War I and 1,239 in World War II
Also at the annual meeting, HHPRF treasurer Wayne Ross reported on the finances of the foundation which has leveraged more than a million dollars for renovation of the old administration building into a museum to house the burgeoning museum collection. Recently the foundation received a grant to install storm windows at the building; the installation will take place later this year.
Foundation members voted to hold their next annual meeting on March 25, 2020, at Dos Rios.
The foundation was established by the Homelake Advisory Board in 2005 to preserve and restore the historic buildings at Homelake, the official state repository for all unclaimed military medals in Colorado.