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Belly Up

G. Mig’s, a place veterans can call their own

11/6/2013

G. Mig’s doubles as Valley Junction bar and local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Sitting on the patio amid the bar’s famous military mural are VFW members (from left to right) Bruce Conner, Roy Garcia, Mike Gibbs and “Gomer.”

G. Mig’s doubles as Valley Junction bar and local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Sitting on the patio amid the bar’s famous military mural are VFW members (from left to right) Bruce Conner, Roy Garcia, Mike Gibbs and “Gomer.”

When a bar has been around for as long as three generations can remember, people come to know it for a lot of things depending on their age or tastes. A lot of people talk about what it was, as the name may change over the years, or they talk about the good-humored bartenders or the new food menu. When discussing G. Mig’s Fifth Street Pub in Valley Junction, what many people don’t know is that it’s not just a popular bar and eatery. It’s Emrick-Williams VFW Post 8879, one of the Des Moines area’s oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars official club houses.

Named after two soldiers from West Des Moines who were killed in action, the Emrick-Williams post was opened in 1946. Its members tell stories about days of their younger years — mere fractions of their lives — of a time when they “lived for food, cold beer and a hot shower,” as Operation Paul Bunyan veteran Bruce Conner tells it. Hailing from active duty in Vietnam, Korea and World War II, and with all branches of the military represented among the members, VFW members meet once a month at their post. They discuss the old days compared to today with regard to soldiers, the government and war.

“If it wasn’t for Mr. Garcia, we wouldn’t even have this post,” said Conner, with a nod toward a near-90-year-old soft-spoken Hispanic man who wears his age miraculously. “He and about 40 others saved this place in the late ’70s. If it wasn’t for that, this place wouldn’t be a VFW.”

Roy Garcia fought in WWII for the Army. After the war, he found fellowship at his hometown VFW post, a place where that brotherhood and camaraderie he came to depend on overseas existed in a seemingly top secret backroom. There he was free to deflate in a way no one but the men in that room would ever truly understand. His name is on the wall outside the building along with a 10-foot tall list of others — some with golden stars painted next to them to recognize the members who have fallen.

The list is on a scroll that runs from the roof to the ground — one of several military depictions hand-painted onto a mural that spans the entire building. It’s a walk through time along the brick patio outside, from the American Revolution to 9/11, painted by Rick Gray, whose stepfather is a member. Other than that, it appears to be just another military-friendly Hawkeye bar in the metro, packed for lunch rushes and happy hours. But once a month, the VFW members gather for serious, sober business planning fundraisers and other charitable projects for the community’s schools, seniors and veterans — continuing the veterans’ practice of selfless sacrifice for the greater good that too often goes gravely unrecognized. CV

G. Mig’s Fifth Street Pub
128 Fifth St., West Des Moines
255-4550
HOURS: Mon. 3-11 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-12 a.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
HAPPY HOUR: Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Mon. 3 p.m.-close; Tues. 8:30 p.m.-close; Sat.-Sun. beer specials all day
KITCHEN: Mon. 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri. Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. plus Tues. 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Thur. 5-9 p.m., Fri. 5-9:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. all day.
CAPACITY: 120
 
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