The Veterans Of Foreign Wars was founded by James C. Putnam on 29 September 1899, and since then the date has been celebrated at posts in America and later all over the globe. There are some six thousand VFW posts worldwide and 52 “departments” stateside offering services and advocacy to vets and their families.
The Veterans Of Foreign Wars is a non-profit veterans service organization offering membership to eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard, and Reserve forces. The VFW and the VFW Auxiliary serve veterans, participate in lobbying and “legislative advocacy” as well as operating or participating in military programs and community service programs.
VFW Day will be observed on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.
How The VFW Got Started
Military societies started forming in the wake of the Spanish-American War. In 1889 veterans of campaigns in Cuba and the Philippines began organizing based on shared combat experiences.
The results of this included creation of the American Veterans of Foreign Service, later to become what we know today as the VFW, but also The Colorado Society, Army of the Philippines, as well as a group calling itself Foreign Service Veterans.
Activities by these agencies included early lobbying efforts to enhance and secure the rights of veterans from these conflicts; their efforts would lead to a more unified front in this regard. All three of these organizations merged in 1913 and became the entity known as the Veterans Of Foreign Wars or VFW.
Who Can Join The VFW
The membership criteria for joining the VFW include honorable service in a “foreign war or overseas operation recognized by a campaign medal”. Those include but are not limited to:
- Service in Korea after June 30, 1949
- Veterans of World War II, Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama
- Veterans of operations in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Kosovo
- Veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq and other smaller expeditionary campaigns
- Those who have received hostile fire or imminent danger pay
An auxiliary was founded in 1914 to include the following family members of those eligible to join the “main” VFW:
- Surviving spouses
The VFW Auxiliary participates in many volunteer efforts including lobbying, youth programs, services for veterans, and scholarships. There are more than a million and a half VFW and Auxiliary members in all 50 states and overseas.
VFW Key Issues
As a veteran service organization, the Veterans Of Foreign Wars has several key issues it focuses on for lobbying, awareness raising, and outreach. Advocacy topics include:
- Veteran Health Care: VFW goals include “timely access to high-quality health care without increasing cost shares”
- Disability Assistance: Helping veterans and their families learn and understand how to claim veteran disability benefits
- Memorial Affairs: Helping vets understand their rights for VA burial services where applicable
- Education, Employment and Transition Assistance: Helping veterans make the best transition from duty to civilian status possible
- Military Quality of Life: Lobbying for veteran benefits and retirement options
What The VFW Does
We’ve already mentioned the VA’s advocacy and lobbying work, but their efforts include working directly with veterans to help them understand and claim their benefits. There are also options for financial support available to veterans in need, help for veteran students, and the VFW Mental Wellness campaign which seeks to end the stigma around military mental health issues.
Celebrating VFW Day
Like so many holidays involving veterans, military families, and those still serving, VFW Day is not a federal holiday, banks do not close, and the post office still delivers mail. The best way to celebrate this day, according to the agency’s official site, is to show support “by honoring all members and veterans in your community”.
If you’re interested in observing the next VFW Day, be sure to check the location of your nearest VFW post. Each post is likely to have local events or activities listed for September 29 or direct you to social media platforms for more information. VFW organizers arrange for open-to-the-public “patriotic days” in local communities and there might be such an event scheduled on September 29 near you.
There are also ways to support the VFW through volunteerism, donations, and fundraising. A VFW Adopt-A-Unit program seeks volunteers to help VFW units “adopt hundreds of military units around the world” to create support networks for these units before, during, and after deployments overseas.
There are plenty of other volunteer opportunities with the VFW, but efforts like this are good examples of how the agency tries to work directly with troops and veterans. Those who wish to celebrate VFW Day should consider such volunteer opportunities; you can find more information at the VFW official site, VFW.org.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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