The veterans organization 40&8 has a new state commander, and he’s from Hutchinson.
Elmer Baysinger recently accepted the gavel from past Grand Chef de Gare Steve Dircks. Baysinger will now lead the 1,100-member state organization this coming year as Grand Chef de Gare. The 40&8 support charitable and patriotic aims, with programs promoting child welfare and nurse training.
“I just feel wonderful,” Baysinger said. “I am so blessed to get this nomination.”
Baysinger is a 1962 graduate of Hutchinson High School who served in the United States Army from 1963 to 1965. He joined the National Guard for 12 years following his honorable discharge. He enjoys fur trade era reenactments and modern camping. He assists in training service dogs for disabled veterans at Believet Canine Service Partners in Northfield.
He said he plans to visit 40&8 locales throughout the state.
“They are from one corner to the other,” Baysinger said.
Baysinger has been a member of the American Legion for 38 years, has served as post commander, membership director, chaplin and district vice commander. He was a part of the Sons of the American Legion for five years, served two years as district commander, has been part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for 38 years, Disabled American Veterans for 10 years, and the 40&8 for 36 years.
To become Chef de Gar of the 40&8 he worked his way through local chairs at Voiture Locale 414 in McLeod County, where he is the aumonier. He then worked his way to the top in the state.
“It’s something I’ve looked forward to for a number of years,” Baysinger said. “It’s a wonderful accomplishment for me. I believe it’s one of my greatest accomplishments as far as organizations go.”
Jerry Block of Hutchinson previously served as Grand Chef de Gare in 2013.
The 40&8’s formal name is La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux, which means The Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses. It dates to World War I, when American soldiers were transported to the battle front in box cars stenciled with a “40/8.” It meant the boxcar could hold 40 men or eight horses. It was a familiar symbol to all those who fought in the trenches.
The 40&8 was founded by World War I veterans in 1920. Membership was by invitation of honorably discharged veterans and honorably serving members of the United States Armed Forces. It originally was an arm of the American Legion but became an independent veterans organization in 1960.
To thank America’s doughboys for their service during World War I, France donated original French boxcars to the 40&8. The Minnesota box car can be seen at the Camp Ripley Military Museum near Little Falls.