A number of Veteran residents, including Larry Ballantine, Joe Schrott, Mike Schmidt, John Schieber, Mike Parker and a few other Veterans met back in 2017 to discuss establishing a Veterans Club in Southern Springs. Their shared vision was that a Veterans Club would a valuable addition to the life and vibrancy of our community. The Southern Springs Veterans Club, established in late 2017, was born out of that common vision and the initial work of that key core group of Veterans. As Larry listened to the discussion and understood what was envisioned, he said “You’re going to need a leader”, to which Joe responded “Congratulations, you want to be our leader?” Larry, being the innate leader that he is, said “Yes!” As a result, he became the founding Commander of the Southern Springs Veterans Club and did a tremendous amountof work to lead the Club from its humble beginnings of a handful of Veterans in 2017 to the vibrant, influential 75-member strong organization it is today within our community.
Larry and his wife, Lynn, arrived in Southern Springs at its very beginning back in 2017. Larry began to share his vision for the Club that was focused on community engagement and veteran outreach as opposed to just being a social organization. Our first project was the US Flag sales and installation program and quickly gave the club visibility, presence, recognition and legitimacy within Southern Springs. Larry led the Club to help see itself as a “give back” organization, which quickly and enthusiastically adopted the tagline of “We served our nation, now we serve our community”. He worked feverishly to ensure that everything we did and for which we stood reflected that motto.
His business, civic (Boy Scouts of America (Eagle rank) Scoutmaster, among other activities) and military leadership experience (Captain, O-3, U.S. Army) perfectly equipped Larry to serve as the Club’s founding Commander and lead us to lay a foundation upon which we could build the Club into what it has become today. Larry’s own military story that began in 1967 has a long and deep legacy. He was born into a military family – both parents served in the Army during and after WWII; his father landed on Normandy on D-Day and his mother was an Army nurse. Also, he had aunts & uncles that served, so it was natural for Larry to join the Army.
Larry’s dedication, enthusiasm, hard work, and great leadership as our founding Commander have enabled the Southern Springs Veterans Club to evolve into a valuable, deeply respected part of our community. Thanks are due in no small part to Larry in helping the Club to now be broadly recognized as the give-back organization that we committed ourselves to years ago at our very beginning.
Taking advantage of the leadership pipeline that Larry helped create, he was succeeded in early 2021 by a new Commander, Gene Sawdon. Larry continues to serve actively within the Club and now Chairs our Civic Committee to leverage his community connections to coordinate guest speakers, identify quality organizations to receive donations from the Veterans Club, and identify other key ways for the Veterans Club to maintain connection within and give back to our community.