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The Versailles Republican

October 2, 2014 • Headlines

One of the best parts of the prince and princess contest is riding in a convertible during the parade. Pictured above are Batesville’s Landon Raver and Milan’s Elly Potts. MARY MATTINGLY PHOTO
Patterson’s Nursery had a beautiful float with colorful mums and landscaping. They won first place in the agribusiness category.
G & H Coffee Co., located on the square in Versailles, held a ribbon cutting with the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce recently. The new business is owned by Hannah Dilk, Julie Graham and Greg Hayes. For a complete list of names, pick up today's The Versailles Republican at your local newsstand. MARY MATTINGLY PHOTO
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Ripley County Veterans Administrator
Hylton to lead Indiana Legion

Mary Mattingly

Many may not realize, but Ripley County veteran’s administrator is also the highest ranking American Legion officer in the state. Ken Hylton was elected in July at the 96th annual Department Convention in Indianapolis as Department Commander. He is in charge of all American Legion posts in Indiana, which includes 400 posts and 88,000 members. Department Commander also oversees the 50,000 Ladies Auxiliary members and 35,000 Sons of American Legion members.

It’s a big task, a big responsibility, but the 65-year-old Army veteran is keeping it simple. His mission is to take care of veterans and their families. “I want to make sure the members are educated in our programs and communicate with their communities to explain our main mission, which is to take care of veterans,” the St. Leon legion member said of his goal while in office.

Hylton has served as the county’s veteran’s officer since 2007, after retiring from the US postal service in 2006. His history with the Legion began as a young veteran at the Aurora post, but then he joined the St. Joseph Legion Post 231 in St. Leon, where he recently received his 40 year service card. He laughs and said initially of his membership, “I thought it was a social club!” That’s exactly what he wants to get away from…”The Legion is so much more than a local watering gathering spot. I want to try to change the image of American Legion posts. People don’t realize it’s purpose and maybe that’s our fault, that we don’t toot our own horns much.”

Ripley County has six active Legion posts: Friendship, Batesville, Milan, Osgood, Sunman, Versailles, and Dearborn County also has six: Dillsboro, Lawrenceburg, Aurora, Moores Hill, New Alsace, St. Leon. “Almost every county in Indiana has at least one post,” he said, mentioning he hopes to get one in Jennings County established soon. The posts are all actively involved in the community, promoting youth programs to make good citizens, helping their veterans with benefits and more.

Hylton, who is married to Carol and has three grown children, has a long history of leadership with the Legion. In 1991-92, he was a post commander and has done so three times. He is currently the St. Joseph Legion Post membership chairman. He has served in several offices in the 9th district, and was district commander in 1996. “I find it all very rewarding,” he said. “I’ve always had the passion for veterans, but I did not know how to use it. The Legion showed me how,” Hylton said. Although it was an elected office, he has been on a track progressing to the position. He served as chairman of all four department of Indiana commissions, being vice commander of one of those, and has been a member of the strategic planning committee since 2008. Hylton admits his first week as top Legion officer was challenging. “We had a staff reduction and there were some office issues. That first week five people from the staff left.” He jokes he almost took it personally! But within two weeks, they had a full staff, and four out of the five hired were veterans. “We put veterans to work!” he added.

The state headquarters, manned with eight employees, is located in Lawrence, east of Indianapolis, and he is there two or three times a week. There are also seven Legion employees at the downtown Indianapolis Veterans Service offices. “It’s a big job! I’m ecstatic how it is going here.” Hylton said at home, in between office visits.

His theme for the year, “Building Bridges for the Future, “ was inspired by a poem he discovered. The Legion needs to grow a younger membership. “We have Vietnam era, Korean War and the wars before then, represented by members. But we need to develop to fit the needs of our younger veterans.“ With that in mind, the headquarters is working with a marketing group, which will survey the state vets about communication, needs, etc. It’s important to grow to maintain their strength as an organization. Hylton is staying in tune with veteran benefits. He’ll be in Washington DC in February to testify on behalf of veterans. “If we lose members our voice isn’t quite as strong,” he said. ‘”We want the veteran’s issues up front and of high priority,” among legislators and the federal government, Hylton notes.

Hylton recalls how the Legion leaders were initially criticized for requesting in February for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Dept. of Veteran Affairs, when the story broke about the Veteran Hospitals patient delays and access to health care. Hylton had met the secretary “and I didn’t blame him for the problems. He seemed to be helpful for veterans. He had more problems going into the job than he thought.” After learning of the delays and VA concerns, other veteran organizations agreed something had to be done, and supported the Legion’s resignation request. Hylton says it is probably too early to determine how the new former Proctor and Gamble executive Bob McDonald is doing at the top VA spot, “but I like that he has town hall meetings with medical centers so veterans can explain their issues. This is definitely helpful in the long run.”

Hylton said he did not hear of local problems with the Cincinnati or Indianapolis Veterans Hospitals. “I can’t honestly say we have a bad one in the area.” The centers have improved greatly in the 25 years, he added. Hylton’s term as Department Commander is for one year. But knowing his passion and commitment to veterans, once the term ends, he’ll continue to help veterans. He he has commissioned a blown glass bridge as a permanent trophy recognizing the top performing districts in membership. The award was inspired by this poem, from an unknown author:

Pictured below right is Ken Hylton, the Ripley County Veterans Administrator, but was elected as Department Commander of the Indiana American Legion.

Ken HyltonAn old veteran going a lone highway
Came at evening, cold and gray,
To a Chasm vast and wide and steep
With waters rolling cold and deep.

The old veteran crossed the twilight dim.
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old Veteran,” said a fellow veteran near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You will never again pass this way.
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at eventide?”

The old veteran lifted his old, gray head.
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There follow after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
The chasm that was naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He too must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

Church ministry for Haiti community
St. Anthony’s auction to aid poorest in the Americas

A local church ministry is helping provide for a poor community in Haiti. The Haitian Ministry of St. Anthony Parish in Morris sends medical professionals annually to Gandou, Haiti, provides electricity for the school and church, and has built an eight grade school house among other deeds.
Gandau Mission team


Pictured left is the summer 2014 Gandau Mission team. Front row, left: Joe Rennekamp of Sunman, Dr. Mary McCullough of Greensburg, Michaela Hoff, Batesville, Mike Krekeler, Batesville, Fran Grebel of Illinois, translators Walfis of Haiti and health care worker Rego; second row, Dorothy Garrett and Valarie Hoff, Batesville, Dr. Andre of Haiti, Allen Hudepohl and Nurse Bonnie Krekeler, Nurse Germain Giselaine, Dr. Patrick , a dentist, and translator Pipen; third row, John Garrett, Batesville, Nurse Practitioner Sherry and Kevin Little, North Vernon, several translators, and far right, Bill Sorensen of Columbus, Indiana.

To continue this outreach, the Haitian Ministry is sponsoring its eighth annual family fun night that includes a silent auction and a free will soup and salad dinner Saturday, October 11, at the church’s Schad Hall from 5 to 11 PM. Every cent of the money raised will go toward helping the people of Gandou, perhaps the poorest community of its size in the Western Hemisphere.

Gandou is located in the mountains only about 40 miles from the country’s capital city, Port au Prince, but a motor trip there can take between five and a half to 11 hours depending on road and weather conditions. There are about 10,000 people living within walking distance of the community, but it is not even considered a village. The Internet simply refers to it as a populated place.

Twice a year since 2006 St. Anthony’s ministry and its volunteers have provided free medical and dental clinics in Gandou, This summer they treated over 1,100 medical and 400 dental patients. They also support a six-person nursing team that supplies basic medical and pharmaceutical care for the people between the group’s semi-annual visits. All of the volunteer’s expenses are borne by the members themselves. The cost of the medicines, and the little salary provided to the permanent team is taken from donations or the proceeds of fund raising events.

About the Haiti mission
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. When Joe and Jennifer Rennekamp of Ripley County started the Haitian ministry they looked for the least developed part of that country. They were directed to Gandou. There they found a community with no water system or electricity, not one commercial business nor a single motor vehicle.  The closest doctor then, and now, was a four-hour walk away; the nearest hospital five hours. At least once a month a woman would die in childbirth from lack of proper medical attention.

Life in Gandou centers around the only church, St. Francis Xavier. Its priest had only a donkey to carry him on visits to the sick. The four corners of his church served as the only school. The church rectory was so small that on their first visit to Gandou one of the ministry members had to sleep under the kitchen table.

St. Anthony’s mission team has since provided the priest with a truck and a motorcycle to bring the more seriously ill patients to a doctor or hospital. It has built an eight-grade school house and has found sponsors who pay for free meals for half of the school’s 280 pupils. Next year there will be the start of a high school taught by three college graduates whose tuition and expenses have been paid by the ministry. The size of the rectory has been increased so as to serve as a community center and to house the mission volunteers who this summer numbered twenty six. The ministry has also provided electrical service to the rectory, school and clinic.

Church destroyed by quake

The Haitian earthquake of 2010 left St. Francis Church unsafe for use and it had to be demolished. The parishioners began reconstruction by carrying foundation rocks, one at a time, up the mountain from the river a mile below. In the two years since then St. Anthony’s mission team has born the lion’s share of the expenses of building a bigger and stronger church.

Those expenses are mainly the purchase of bags of cement and the salaries of 12 local construction workers—seven men and five women. The ministry’s next mission to Gandou is scheduled for January 28 thru February 5. Volunteers are still needed. Anyone wanting more information about the Gandou Ministry or the silent auction is welcome to attend its next general meeting in the basement of St. Anthony’s Schad Hall Wednesday, October 8, at 6:30 PM. They can also visit Joe or Jennifer Rennekamp can be contacted at 812-623-2654 or email at

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• South Ripley creates new food pantry
• Local woman receives state recognition (page 3)
• Dillsboro man gets more prison time (Regional Wrap-Up, page 3, section B)
• Versailles Town Court (page 7, section B)

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