When W.C. “Rip” Storm served in the Army in World War II (2/27/1945-10/30/1946), little did he know of the years of dedication to the veterans he and his bride and family would serve.
Rip was part of the Army unit tasked with liberating the Philippines. Rip was very proud of his service but was not one to tell war stories.
When Rip returned from his service in World War II, he joined the Strasburg American Legion Post 289. His wife, Lila, joined the American Legion Auxiliary. They made sure every daughter and granddaughter was signed up as a member soon after birth. Rip and Lila were very active in the Post/Unit (local), County, and District American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary. The Legion and Auxiliary serve the veterans, their families and the community.
Rip and Lila, and many of their children, were often seen working the Annual Halloween Soup Supper and the Annual Easter Egg Hunt in Strasburg every year. They put flags on the veterans’ graves near Memorial Day so all veterans would be remembered. Rip and Lila would deliver fruit baskets to fellow veterans and wheelchairs and walkers when needed. Lila was posthumously awarded Rip’s Legion 50-year membership certificate two weeks after his passing.
It was not easy for this family when the oldest brother, Larry Storm, left on April 25, 1966, to serve in the Army in Vietnam. Larry served in the Big Red One. Lila would sit at the kitchen table every morning after the children got on the school bus and would write Larry a letter on the airmail stationery with the red and blue stripes on the sides. There were recorded audio tapes (on the big round reels) sent back and forth as well.
Larry’s tour ended on Jan. 28, 1968. Rip did what he could to help the Vietnam veterans as he knew that in war, there are no unwounded soldiers. Larry has been an active member of Liberty Post 289 since returning from Vietnam.
For the next 70 years, this family remained active in the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary. All of their children but one attended Premier Boys State or ALA Illini Girls State, and the tradition continued as all of the granddaughters and now great-granddaughters have attended ALA Illini Girls State.
Daughter Linda Oakley, active on the Unit, District, Division and Department (State) level, also has served as the VA Representative at the Mattoon VA Clinic for over 11 years. Until COVID, you could find her volunteering there every Friday serving coffee, cookies and fresh-made popcorn to veterans and their families who were at the clinic for their appointments. As Linda has said many times, Fridays were her “feel good” day. Putting a smile on a veteran’s face and listening to stories that she may have heard several times was her way of letting each veteran know that they are important. She also coordinates the volunteers who make the reminder phone calls for appointments. Linda also has the maps and leads the members of the Auxiliary, including the junior members, in placing the flags on five cemeteries each May, a tradition Rip and Lila took over from Elmer Richards and now the fourth generation is participating in.
Daughter Jill Layton is very active in the Veterans’ History Project, recording verbatim the veterans’ stories. The veteran is given a copy of their interview to pass down to their children and grandchildren, a copy is sent to the Illinois State Library, and a copy goes to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
On Mother’s Day 2007, Rip’s grandson, Josh Layton, left for the Marines. Josh served in the Marines from May 14, 2007, to Oct. 16, 2016. Josh was in Iraq and Afghanistan. Josh is currently in the Marine Reserves. Just as when Larry was serving in Vietnam and Lila would write him a letter every day, when Josh was deployed, mother Jill would write him a letter — but it was an email. The communication from veteran to family had changed so much from Rip’s service in World War II to Josh’s service. But the same sense of pride and constant fear was the same. The grasping of any news of the happenings across the oceans had not changed either.
Josh took his commitment to helping fellow comrades on to his civilian life. Josh is the Veteran Service Officer in Effingham serving veterans in 20 counties.
“Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world. A veteran does not have that problem.” — Ronald Reagan