12/17/08 — Local Forty & Eight club focuses on helping nursing students through school

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Local Forty & Eight club focuses on helping nursing students through school

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 17, 2008 1:46 PM

In the days before Humvees and C-130s, soldiers going to the front lines had to make do with whatever makeshift transport the officers could find.

For American troops in France during World War I, that transport was often a cramped railway boxcar marked "40 hommes/8 chevaux," or "40 men/8 horses," indicating the boxcar's capacity.

After the Great War, returning veterans remembered those boxcars and founded La Societe Des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux -- known colloquially as the Forty & Eight -- a national honor society for active duty and honorably discharged servicemen and women.

"We are the only veterans' organization you have to be invited into," said Grand Chef de Gare David VanWormer of Goldsboro, the station chief of the North Carolina Forty & Eight.

"We do our work, but we do have fun," he said.

In addition to working with the Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service and the POW/MIA program, the Forty & Eight also runs multiple charitable efforts promoting youth sports, providing financial support for children in emergency circumstances and funding scholarships for nursing students. The society donates more than $8 million to children in need every year.

"I'm really pushing these programs," said VanWormer, who began serving his one-year term of office in July. "It's a learning process for everyone."

Each division of the society decides independently how to conduct their charity operations, and the Goldsboro locale chose to follow one special nursing student through all three years of school.

Any student selected for the scholarship "must really want to be a nurse," said Jose Santana, the grand aide de camp with the Goldsboro Forty & Eight division.

The candidate must be an American citizen, maintain a minimum 3.5 grade-point average and demonstrate their ability to give back to the community, Santana said.

Lindsay Doty, a junior at East Carolina University, is the current recipient of the Forty & Eight scholarship. Ms. Doty, who made the dean's and chancellor's lists last year, is in her first year of nursing school.

"It's hard, but I like nursing," she said.

The Forty & Eight members have been a strong presence in Ms. Doty's life since they selected her to receive the scholarship.

"They are really supportive and I love them," she said.

Ms. Doty also received a scholarship from the state branch of the society.

The Forty & Eight has members in every state, plus Germany, France and Latin America, VanWormer said.

VanWormer served in the Air Force for 20 years and can tell many stories about his time in uniform.

"You do not park anything in front of Air Force One," he said, recalling an incident from the 1990's when he was stationed in Japan. His expert handling of a sensitive airfield situation caught the attention of the Secret Service, who made him their point of contact at the base.

VanWormer was inducted into the society in 1994. He retired from the military in 1998 and has been working more intensively with the Forty & Eight for about six years. He has high hopes for the future, he said.

"Eventually, I would like to be the national commander," he said. "Our locale is famous for getting people promoted to higher office."

The Forty & Eight is holding turkey shoots at the American Legion in Goldsboro every Saturday until Christmas to raise money for the nursing scholarship fund. The society raised about $4,000 during last year's shoot. For more information or to donate to the society's charitable funds, call Ken Snell at 223-3343.