BONNERS FERRY — On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Boundary County chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), came together to recognize the VFW’s 75th year as a federally recognized organization.
The VFW was founded nationally by combat veterans who had the goal of securing their rights, providing a support group for service members, and supplying an extended support system to fellow service members.
After the Spanish-American War, veterans began to come together and form support groups in the form of the American Veterans of Foreign Services, the Colorado Society of the Army of the Philippines, and the American Veterans of Foreign Services. These societies were formed in the 1899 era of the wars, and then continued to convene in conferences, one of which determined the merge of all.
In 1904, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine began its publication, which allowed a commonground of news between the service members, thus creating a network of people as support.
With about 1.7 million members to this day, the VFW continues to support and uphold not only the military standards of conduct, but support each other and the communities that veterans reside in.
In addition to assisting military veterans, they support and fight for the rights of all veterans through Congress and other means, including passing bills, one of which enabled service members assistance with educational benefits, and another that assisted with medical services, among others.
The VFW also assists veterans with debriefing after combat circulation, separation benefits and claims, financial grants, student support for veterans, support for mental awareness, transition support, and assistance with employment opportunities.
The VFW Chapter 3622 of Bonners Ferry and Boundary County have contributed to their ongoing support of the community since 1943.
The VFW continues to rely on their membership supporters as well as donations.
“What’s most important is the continuing focus on veterans needs, especially now,” said Vietnam veteran Ron McIlnay, speaking of the influx of new veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In today’s society, everyone is focused on so many different things made possible by all of these new electronics. Everybody is becoming distant, and in doing so, the importance of the do good organizations has dwindled and become an ‘I’ll do it later’ thing.”
With income from memberships and donations declining, the VFW has been hard pressed to complete their mission, which is mainly to support veterans in as many ways as they can.
There are the VFW memberships and the Auxiliary memberships, both of which assist with the support of the community of combat veterans. The difference between the two branches is that Auxiliary members can be a relation to a combat veteran within two generations, and the VFW membership is any U.S. citizen or national that has served in the U.S. Armed Forces during a foreign war. Both memberships have more in depth regulations, which can be learned via the links at the end of the article.
Even though their have been increased and upheld standards to the organizations, there is a stigma that remains, tainting the reputation of the very thing that has been implemented to assist those veterans in need. The stigma was implemented through arrays of fellowship, comradery, and reminisce, consisting of drinking and associating, which did not sit well in the minds of many.
“Those days are gone, but still the stigma is there,” said District Commander for the VFW District 1, Joe English.
With war heroes coming out of service, they wanted to have a friendly support system, consisting of activities that not only brought camaraderie, but allowed relationships to build and allowed the combat veterans a chance to build a support system based on similar experiences. In addition to the camaraderie, some soldiers wanted to have a support group that met their personal standards.
“I spent seven years in the Cold War in Germany when they had the Iron Curtain up,” said English. “That was real stuff, it was no phoney baloney thing, I looked down a communist rifle many, many times. I left there and went to Vietnam and spent 13 months over there, and got even closer to the rifles.”
English, came to Bonners Ferry on 9/11 to personally hand out the congratulatory certificates for Chapter 3622’s 75th year in Boundary County.
With recent war heroes coming out of service, the organization wants to create a friendly support system, consisting of activities that not only bring camaraderie, but allow relationships to build and allow the combat veterans a chance to build a support system based on similar experiences.
For more information, visit www.vfwidaho.org, Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter 3622 Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on Facebook, and vfwauxiliary.org.