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Longtime leader Bert Key to remain active in organization, programs for students

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Bert Key handed over the reins of the Sandy VFW Post No. 4273 to Allen Anderson on June 6. Retired educator Bert Key has dedicated most of his life to service. He fought in Vietnam, Bosnia and Afghanistan, serving in the Marines for a non-contiguous 44 months, then gave 34 years to helping the Sandy community through the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Now, after his third term as VFW commander, Key is happy to hand over the reins to his fellow Vietnam veteran, Allen Anderson.

In years past, Key accepted the position numerous times because "we had some goals and we hadn't accomplished them yet, so I wanted to stick around."

Now, Key said he's ready to have new leadership with fresh ideas take over, though he'll remain active in the group. Although Key served the VFW for 34 years, he noted that he waited about 20 years to join after exiting the military because of the stigma that surrounded the Vietnam War.

Certain VFW posts still exclude Vietnam veterans from joining, but not Sandy's, located at 38452 Proctor Blvd.

In his time as commander, Key has worked to make the Sandy post feel welcoming to all those who've served, along with their families.

"When I first took command I made the comment that we will not tolerate any ethnic slurs or gender slurs," Key said. "I'm assuming Allen will carry on the same."

Anderson, who has served as commander a few times and took over command again on June 6, plans to operate with the same ideals in mind. A Navy veteran, Anderson has served 26 years in the military and 51 years with the VFW.

Like Key, Anderson comes from a family of soldiers. His grandfather served in World War I and his father in World War II.

A Montana native, Anderson joined the Navy not only because of his family's tradition of service, but because "I wanted to see the ocean."

"Living in Montana, there wasn't much ocean," Anderson joked.

Moving forward, Anderson said he is happy to take over on the heels of a commander like Key.

"We're in a lot better shape than the first time (I became commander)," Anderson noted. "I am looking forward to (taking command again). I've had two-and-a-half years as senior vice under Bert. With the stuff I've learned in the last three years, I think we'll continue forward. It's going to be a fun run for the next year."

Besides serving in the military, being a VFW member is also a tradition of Anderson's family. His grandfather actually started the VFW in his Montana hometown, and Anderson wears his grandfather's VFW cap to this day.

As commander, Anderson hopes to continue to recruit members to the VFW and in turn help more people.

"To me, that's our prime mission: to help our fellow vets," Anderson said. "It's not to build a $500,000 bank account and have a Taj Mahal of a post, it's to be out there in the community with boots on the ground."

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