Veterans service groups at Santee’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9327, American Legion Post 364, and the resident VFW Auxiliary partnered for a Mardi Gras celebration on Saturday, March 2. These veterans know how to stage a great party while doing good work on behalf of the community.
The evening event’s dual purposes were to have fun with traditional New Orleans food and music and to raise funds for support of Dogs on Deployment.
The efforts that night, from outright donations and raffle ticket sales, brought in over $200 for the nonprofit organization, which currently operates nationwide from Escondido. The Creole-style dinner menu featured jambalaya, red beans and rice, with side slices of cornbread.
The new VFW Auxiliary President for District 1 is Kathie Okolski. (The district is roughly contiguous with San Diego County.) Okolski oversees 22 local VFW Auxiliaries with about 4,900 members. Okolski chose Dogs on Deployment as her “pet” project for fundraising this year. She attended the Mardi Gras party to support her cause.
“This helps active duty or retired military when their biggest need is someone to foster their pets,” Okolski said.
Dogs on Deployment was founded in June 2011 to help ensure responsible care for those pets left behind when their military companions are called to active duty or are incapable, due to service-related injury or homelessness, of providing for their animals.
Alisa and Shawn Johnson started Dogs on Deployment after finding themselves in a predicament. The married couple co-founded the nonprofit organization after they faced the challenge of placing their beloved miniature Australian shepherd, JD, into a temporary home while military orders separated both of them from their pet.
Alisa Johnson, then 1st Lt., United States Marine Corps, was assigned after commissioning to six months of training in a barracks at Quantico, Virginia. Then–U.S. Navy Lt. Shawn Johnson was called up for deployment.
After pricing the cost of professional pet sitting and finding it excessively expensive, they considered themselves fortunate that extended family members then offered to take JD in.
Their thoughts turned, however, to other military pet companions who had no one available to step into that void.
Dogs on Deployment provides a website, dogsondeployment.org, as an online resource offering possible linkages between volunteers willing to temporarily board military pets and troops whose animals would otherwise be homeless due to military service, and who can then partner in agreement arranging for a pet to be provided for during the separation.
Tammi Royales, Santee VFW Auxiliary Treasurer, organized the evening’s festivities. “This is Mardi Gras for fun, and we are doing something good,” Royales said.
The Santee veterans organizations share quarters at 8516 N. Magnolia Avenue, Suite 203.