VFW provides hub for local veterans activities

Sean C. Morgan

The Veterans Club offers a hub of activity for veterans as they complete work on behalf of veterans and work in the community, while serving as a social gathering spot for veterans and their friends.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3437 formed on Sept. 17, 1943. Its auxiliary formed on Nov. 5, 1943. The Vets Club includes four other groups: The Military Order of the Cooties Brush Apes 20, the AmVets Post 13, the AmVets Auxiliary and the Sons of AmVets Squadron 13.

The VFW is open to anyone who has served in a foreign war. It has about 254 members. Its auxiliary has about 230 members. The AmVets is open to any veteran who was honorably discharged. The Sons of AmVets is open to anyone who has a close relative who is a veteran.

The Cooties are an order within the VFW, specifically known for visiting hospitals and nursing homes, said Rose-Marie Allyn of the VFW Auxiliary.

Lebanon VFW members were incorporated into the Sweet Home post last year, Allyn said.

The club’s current building was constructed in 1954 after its old building burned, she said.

Each group has its own missions and purposes, she said, but members of each group work with the rest on each of their projects and programs.

“We all work together on it. We kind of support each other.”

Friday night’s annual All-Veterans Dinner is just one example, Allyn said. “The AmVets are the main ones doing it, but everybody comes together to pull it off. We’re lucky that way. There’s a lot of places where not all organizations get along.

“The main purpose is to serve and assist our veterans as a whole. The main purpose of the AmVets and so forth is helping the veterans and their families in any way possible.”

They will help any veteran regardless of whether they are members of the Veterans Club organizations, she said.

VFW Post Commander Harry Smith said the organization’s purpose is to help other vets and to contribute to the community.

“The VFW is a worthy organization wanting to contribute as much as we can,” he said.

That can mean everything from providing a bugler and flag folding at funerals to helping a veteran through government red tape, Smith said, and members try to encourage people to get involved.

“Personally, it has made me feel more in touch with the community,” Smith said. “It’s an organization I enjoy. I feel welcome here.”

The VFW assists with a home sponsored by the Oregon VFW at the location of a nationwide program based in Eaton, Mich., for children of soldiers currently serving in the military, including medical help and education, Allyn said. The VFW assists with clothing and gifts.

“It’s been a vital part when both parents are in,” Allyn said. Not everyone has grandparents who can take care of the children while parents are serving. Sometimes the service is available for mothers and children.

The VFW also supports veterans’ families by providing funeral dinners and military honors at funerals. The VFW also works with the local American Legion on the annual Memorial Day services at Crawfordsville and Gilliland cemeteries.

While the National Guard Alpha Troop stationed in Lebanon was serving in Iraq, the VFW and Auxiliary adopted the armory in Lebanon and supported the family program there.

The VFW also hosts programs for veteran residents of the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Hospital.

The organization also participates in the community by providing 45 to 55 food baskets during the holidays.

“We get the names from the community and put together donation baskets by members who come in the door,” Allyn said. The group supports the Poppy Program, which helps fund the family support programs.

Both the VFW and the AmVets promote Americanism, with the VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen programs. The AmVets put out street flags purchased by the VFW on holidays and special occasions. The groups also are involved in presentations in schools, including a Flag Day presentation with the Elks Lodge.

The VFW and AmVets support Scouting and other youth programs, and they provide a color guard for the annual homecoming football game.

The AmVets and Auxiliary support the Paws with a Cause program, which provides service dogs to people with disabilities, and the John Tracy Clinic, which specializes in helping those with hearing loss.

The club also hosts representatives from the Veterans Administration the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month to provide help with paperwork.

The club has an open kitchen for lunch every day, including tacos on Thursdays. Open bingo is Monday and Wednesday. A bar serves members and guests. The club takes bingo to Twin Oaks Rehabilitation Center monthly, along with parties on holidays, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

The club holds periodic flag burning ceremonies. Earlier this yera, it held a ceremony for more than 800 flags, including two garrison flags.

When a flag is soiled or worn, it should be burned, and the club will collect them to be burned appropriately. The Sweet Home Funeral Chapel donated its time to burn the majority of the flags following a ceremony earlier this year.

For more information about the club or to get involved, call (541) 367-4435.