By: Vernon Welkner, VP KSSSAR

Compatriots, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Vernon Welkner and I am currently the Vice President for the Kansas State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. My wife, Linda, and I have been married since 1976 and we have four children and twelve grandchildren. We live in Leavenworth, Kansas. I am the past president of the Henry Leavenworth chapter and currently serve as the chapter’s chaplain. I am a member of the SAR’s National Chaplain’s Committee and the National Society’s Membership Committee. Linda is a member of the Captain Jesse Leavenworth chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution where she serves as the chairwoman of the chapter’s membership committee.

I grew up in Miami, Florida where I received a calling from the Lord to follow Him into church ministry, so I studied at the Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. I attended graduate school at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and received my doctorate from the Atlantic Coast Theological Seminary in Daytona Beach, Florida. I have served full-time in pastoral ministry since 1980 and in churches in Georgia, Florida, Missouri, and now Kansas. In my ministry I have traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Belize, and Mexico. I have preached at Native American church on the Navajo Reservation and summer camps in Juneau, Alaska. I currently serve as the Senior Pastor of the High Prairie Church in Leavenworth, Kansas.

I became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution through the efforts of my mother, who was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mom said that when she was a young girl she remember her aunt telling her that she had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. She spent several years tracing her ancestry back to her Revolutionary War patriot and discovered his name was Joseph McReynolds who served with the North Carolina militia. He was wounded in action and captured by the British at the Battle of Camden (South Carolina) and spent several months as a prisoner of war. As soon as my mother became a member of the DAR she began urging me to join the SAR. After several years of her encouragement, I logged onto the national SAR web site and located the Henry Leavenworth chapter. I found out when the chapter met and showed up for a meeting. Barney Ellis became my sponsor and I received my membership on July 8, 2010.

I found chapter meetings encouraging and enlightening. My favorite aspect of the chapter meetings was and still is the historical presentations of the patriots and battles of the American Revolution. The Henry Leavenworth chapter is privileged to be located close to Fort Leavenworth and many of the instructors from the Fort have given presentations at chapter meetings. Many of our members have also given excellent historical presentations that I have found to be a real treasure.

I look forward to continued service at the national, state, and chapter levels. I have enjoyed attending a national congress and the spring and fall leadership meetings and I urge you to get involved as well. I hope to see you at the state conference this March and upcoming Board of Governors meetings.

As the term of my office winds down the fruit basket is upset now on the national scene. It seems as though a manly duel would have been a better course that what we have witnessed most recently but it is what it is. Going forward it now is possibly the most important time in the history of the SAR for us to be out on the streets, not demonstrating, but promoting our youth programs, our missions, the real Constitutional ideology, and sharing what America means to us as the descendants of founders. This year ZOOMED by as many were afraid to venture out with the Corona Virus supposedly lurking at every turn. We learned a lot about the possibilities of technology, got to see the faces of many men we would never have met as they attended their first meeting ever online. What we also found is that for many of us this is not a viable alternative to meeting face to face whenever possible.

We had a great year for enrollment but a terrible year for retention. We cracked the 1000 member barrier for the first time but we had a nearly 10% non-renewal rate. These drops came from all over the board but there are two categories that are glaring to me. It is hard to tell for sure, but from where I look, we lost a large number of men and juniors that were part of a family submission. This was something that I noticed last year so this year I called each new member, except juniors, as their certificate crossed my desk for signature. As you might know many do not answer the phone for a number they do not recognize so I had a few men who did not answer. That being the case, I left a message that I was Bobbie Hulse the current State President of the Kansas Society Sons of the American Revolution and that I had just signed their membership certificate, please give me a call. Probably 50% of the men called me back and the phone conversations were very enjoyable, at least to me. We have a great group of men coming on board this year and I do hope that all of the Chapter presidents take the time to call their new chapter members and welcome them as well. Most that I talked to who did any of their own genealogy work plan to be active, some of the ones that are DAR referrals are excited as well, and then there are those who did not pay their way in and some who did not know they were involved as they were a part of a family plan and no one had bothered to tell them or maybe they just did not realize what they were told and forgot about it. Making contact with these guys as the state president seems to surprise nearly every one of the new men so I think we would all be served well to make sure that an initial contact from at minimum, the chapter, is worth the while. I am suggesting at this time that each new application be sure and have a phone number, as well as an email address, or that Tim request the sponsor to get that information before he sends the application on to Louisville. One other issue that is being addressed is that if, for example, grandpa is paying the dues for his sons and grandsons that Tim be notified that that is the case so that the billing can be expedited easily. Chasing after those who have not renewed is hard enough when one has all the information but darn near impossible without a phone number or email.

Starting a new chapter has been one of the highlights of my term as State President. It has not come without a great COVID challenge. Planning for a charter ceremony was done and never completed. The Prairie Minutemen Chapter is solid with around fifty members. As some of you know the home base for the chapter is Ellsworth, my home town, so this was special to me. Many of these guys were men that I went to school with either them or their brothers and sisters so we kind of had a reunion of sorts as I had not seen many of them for years. Justin Engleman has spearheaded the application process as he was fed leads of interested men by Ron Svaty. Ron was aided by the longtime registrar of the Smoky Hills Chapter DAR, his wife Pat. When I sponsored Ron a few years ago the three of us sat at the kitchen table in their home and discussed starting a chapter there. As we talked Pat kept telling us of more and more men that were in the same linage as DAR members and the idea bloomed from there. We look forward to watching this new chapter mature when the masks are lifted and these guys really get going. During this process my wife Debbie has joined the DAR in the Smoky Hills Chapter with the ladies that aided in the Prairie Minutemen Charter.

Our Nation is under siege from many directions today. Our Society has the power to make a difference in the direction our nation goes. I urge each one of you to consider what you can do within your chapter on a personal basis that will not only help promote the SAR but promote Americanism and the way of life that we all were brought up; to believe the beam of light that America has stood for since its beginning that our patriot ancestors gave to us. I hope that all of us finds a way to contribute even more as our incoming President, Vern Welkner, takes over for a couple of years. At my request Vern has been studying and researching how we can do a better job as members serving our new membership. I look forward to doing whatever I can to aid Vern as he takes on this position.

Looking back on the last couple of years there have been some great times and it was really sad that the year 2020 was defined by a virus, civil unrest, and unbelievable disdain for each other by our political parties. Canceling nearly all of our gatherings of SAR nationwide, and so on has really put a damper on enthusiasm. Looking back there were some really great memorable things that happened.

KSSSAR crossing the 1000 member barrier, marking the grave of a Revolutionary Patriot buried in Kansas, Tim Bevan winning the Photo contest at national, Patriot Chests that are now available and in the hands of some of the chapters and more on the way as they are made and filled, a new chapter, men stepping up to hold us together by Zoom, Poster winner for Kansas Placing 2nd at National, several new Liberty Medal achievers, many of us survived COVID, Ft. Hays Chapter nearly doubling in size, all in spite of lock-downs and cancellations.

I am proud of everyone who has stepped up and helped to keep Kansas, I am sure, near the top of achievers as a state society. It is my hope that the coming year turns us loose to be actively promoting patriotism all over the state and for that matter the nation. Our Nation is at the cross roads of a new era and we wish for our descendants to be able to live as we have in a free country, which is the envy of people everywhere. In spite of all of the hate spouted on the news, the country that people from all over the world want to live in is these United States of America that was given to us by OUR patriot ancestors by their hard work and sacrifice. We cannot let them down. We must preserve it and make it even better than we had it handed to us, stained with the blood of patriots who have preserved it at an immense cost.