Although the weekend welcomed temperatures in the low 70s, members of Texas State’s Army ROTC plunged into the San Marcos River at Sewell Park in an annual winter fundraiser for a local veterans program.
All proceeds raised at the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge were donated to the local Disabled American Veterans chapter. The Hays County area is home to more than 10,000 veterans, according to the Census Bureau. MS-III Cadet Justin Gregg said his fellow cadets saw the event as an opportunity to help out.
“We wanted to do it because we wanted to give back to the community,” Gregg said. “We thought it would be great to help an organization that helps all these veterans, especially (those) located so close to us.
Located in Seguin, DAV Chapter 61 serves veterans in Hays, Comal, Guadalupe, Gonzales and surrounding counties. Chapter 61, established in 1961, offers assistance to veterans in order to empower them to lead a high-quality life.
Chapter 61 officers were present at the event. According to Phil Sierer, Chapter 61 commander, the group aids about 80 to 100 veterans each month with a range of services including counseling, advocacy, emotional support and judicial help.
“We want to educate veterans on the system,” Sierer said. “We still receive World War II, Vietnam and Korea veterans that don’t know where to go or how to seek benefits. We applaud and welcome any effort to help our chapter.”
The DAV runs on donations and grants. Chapter 61 adjutant Marlin Howze said the majority of funding is spent on bulk expenses such as office supplies and utilities.
“The city and county support us enormously,” Howze said. “They have donated equipment, and now we have a location and space available to provide more services.”
DAV chaplain Richard Cusson is an ordained minister who holds a Bible study at the location every Wednesday.
“A lot of these veterans have emotional problems,” Cusson said. “Thanks to the DAV they have someone to talk to—someone who understands exactly what they are going through. We try to hold as many events as we can to spread information to family and friends.”
Erika Couturier, ROTC assistant professor, said the Polar Bear Plunge is particularly welcomed in San Marcos and at Texas State because they are active veteran areas.
“(The event) opens the DAV to those who don’t know about it,” she said.
Army ROTC Lt. Col. James Adams joined the jumpers for the finale collective plunge into the river. The total amount of funds raised at the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge was not available at press time.