Hometown Heroes: Retired Sergeant stays active with St. John VA Outpatient Clinic & VFW

Published 12:20 am Saturday, May 12, 2018

LAPLACE — Elvin “Ray” Bass of LaPlace doesn’t consider himself a hero.

According to Bass, true heroes of the military realm are the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the fight for freedom.

With 37 years of service with the St. John VA Outpatient Clinic and VFW, Bass supports veterans readjusting to society, the same way he found support upon returning home from overseas.

Growing up in Northern Louisiana, Bass knew beyond doubt that he would have a military career.

“In high school, I did a delayed entry program where you could join before you graduate,” Bass said. “That’s how sure I was about going into the military.”

Bass served in the U.S. Army from 1977 to 1983 and was stationed primarily in Korea during a time when no wars were ongoing but tensions still ran high.

During his service, he achieved the rank of sergeant.

Ray Bass sets up for bingo at the VFW Post 3337 Hall in LaPlace.

While his experience was positive, Bass knows every veteran comes home with unique burdens. It motivates him to volunteer locally and federally, aiding veterans’ transitions back into civilian life by extending resources and mentorship.

A full-time employee of the VA outpatient clinic at 4004 W. Airline Highway in Reserve, Bass checks in veterans and assists them with appointments.

“It’s something for them to fall back on in their time of need,” Bass said. “The VA Clinic gives another

approach to health care for veterans who don’t have insurance.”

Ray Bass stands by a national award VFW Post 3337 in LaPlace won for outstanding community service.

Bass served a one-year term as the VFW state commander in 2016 and attended national meetings for legislation affecting veterans despite struggling with “unheard of” blood sugar levels over 1,000 mg/dL.

Serving as state commander was an enlightening experience, Bass said.

He’d told people from the start that he would achieve the position. Now that it’s over, Bass has no plans to slow down.

Though Bass doesn’t fit into his own definition of a hero, LaPlace VFW commander Wesley Mitchell said he’s symbolically given his life by dedicating himself to the community.

“Ray is someone who doesn’t like to be in the limelight, but he’s very instrumental in getting things done,” Mitchell said.

“He’s willing to help anyone in need. When I had issues reintegrating after I came back from Iraq, he was a mentor for me.”

By facilitating a partnership with Home Depot, Bass helped add handicap accessible renovations to the VFW Hall in LaPlace and secured store discounts for veterans.

He raises money for veterans services through a “buddy poppies” Memorial Day flower fundraiser at Walmart and works closely with the St. John Sheriff’s Office, Mitchell said.

Even after a full day’s work, Mitchell said Bass dedicates hours to simply keeping the VFW Hall clean.