By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
Patriotism is alive and well in Moapa Valley and much of that is thanks to the many servicemen and women and their families that have chosen to make Moapa Valley their home.
Moapa Valley is the home to both an active Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) post and Auxiliary and an active American Legion post and Auxiliary. Both of these organizations work toward helping past and present members of the military and their families through serving them and their communities. Both organizations have spent hours in service to Moapa Valley from performing numerous flag-raising and -lowering ceremonies on holidays, to running the annual “Tank Day” and giving Moapa Valley students scholarships.
One local veteran who has chosen to make Moapa Valley his home is Dennis Vance. Vance has been at the forefront of all activities for both VFW and American Legion in Moapa Valley for many years with his wife Gan at his side.
Vance has lived in the community for around 13 years now. In that time, he has served as the Commander of the American Legion for 7 years, the American Legion Vice-Commander, and is currently the Adjutant. During all this time he has also served with the VFW.
Gan has also been active alongside Vance and is currently serving as the American Legion Auxiliary District President in addition to also being active in the VFW Auxiliary.
Vance spent most of his life serving in the United States Army. He was born and raised in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He graduating from Central High School there and joined the army soon after that.
“At the time, I didn’t want to get drafted,” Vance said. “The draft was in effect and everyone had to serve, so I figured I’d just enlist and get my service out of the way.”
Vance served as a tank crewman stationed at Fort Reilly, Kansas for 3 years. “After Fort Reilly, I got ready to get out of the military,” Vance said. “But I realized I had a wife and a son and no skills. So in the end, I chose to reenlist.”
When he reenlisted, Vance realized he needed to get some marketable skills. So he applied to attend aircraft electronics school. He was accepted and sent to school at Fort Gordon, GA. Upon graduation he was stationed at Fort Hood, TX, from which he was sent on his first tour of duty to Vietnam. He served in Vietnam for about 16 months. “I grew up there,” he said.
When he got back from Vietnam, Vance returned to the Fort Gordon aircraft electronics school and served as an instructor for about 18 months. He was then sent to Germany to service aircraft radios.
“I really liked the work,” he said. “But I had to live out of a duffle bag because I traveled to the aircraft, not the other way around.”
He did this for 2 years before returning to Fort Gordon as an instructor again.
After another 2 years at Fort Gordon, Vance was sent to Vietnam again, to service aircraft radios there. This time he stayed for one year.
Upon completing this assignment, he moved to Fort Steward, GA, where he maintained the helicopter fleet for the flight school for the next 18 months.
Then he was sent to Vietnam for a third time. His third and final tour lasted a year.
Upon return, Vance was stationed at Fort Reilly, KS, again.But he realized that he couldn’t get promoted there. So he applied to go to school for Hawk Air Defense Systems. Upon graduation from that program, Vance was sent to Germany once again for 18 months to work at a tactical site. He returned to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where he served as an instructor to train people from Jordan and Kuwait on the Hawk system for the next two years before retiring from the military.
After his Army retirement, Vance took the skills he had learned and put them to good use working for Hughes Aircraft Company out of California. He worked as a field technician where he found himself mostly working outside Las Vegas. His mother-in-law lived in Overton and when he came to visit he enjoyed the peace and quiet of the community. So after retiring from Hughes after 19 years of service, he chose Overton as the place he wanted to settle down and, in his own words, “live happily ever after.”
Vance has loved living in Overton and being able to be a part of American Legion and VFW. He is often seen at events in one uniform in the morning, only to be back in the evening in his other uniform.
He said that his favorite part of serving has been “working with the local community and serving the veterans, who need all the help they can get.”
He encourages other community members to get involved as well. “The best thing people can do to help is support the military and their families,” he said.
Moapa Valley is lucky to have Dennis Vance and the service he provides to military members and their families and the example he sets for the youth of today in patriotism, service, and duty to country.