One of my duties as the Chaplain of my Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post is to manage our Relief Fund. Twice each year, on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, members of our VFW Post hand out poppies to remember and to honor those who died and those who have served and those who are serving today.
We do not sell these poppies, but do accept donations, and it is amazing how generous our neighbors and fellow citizens are as they pass into the grocery stores we set up at.
All of the money collected goes into our Relief Fund and every penny of it is then distributed to veterans causes and local needs like food banks, or to support local students with small scholarships, or as awards to teachers-of-the-year, or First Responders over the course of each year.
During the month of December we purchase gift cards and take $500 worth of cards each to the Chaplains Offices at Joint Base Lewis/McChord (JBLM), Everett Naval Base, Everett, WA, and District 13 United States Coast Guard Base in Seattle, which the Chaplains can distribute to military personnel and their families on those bases. We also purchase $1,000 worth of gift cards for each of the two Veterans Homes in our area.
This morning I was able to deliver a set of those gift cards to the Retsil Veterans Home in Port Orchard, WA. At present there are some 250 Veterans ranging from WWII veterans to the Gulf War veterans being cared for in the Nursing facilities. There are also some 60 homeless veterans housed in their transitional housing unit.
The people I met there were very hospitable and I can not by help but admire their work and care for those veterans in their charge. It is demanding work caring for those veterans, yet they do it every day with dedication and care.
VFWs around the country are doing similar kinds of things for our veterans. We like to say that “No one does more for Veterans than the VFW.” We are advocates for veterans at the local and the national level.
The VFW fights for veterans rights before Congress on a regular basis. And the VFW continually challenges the VA to keep its promises to our veterans, and our Service Officers help veterans apply for their benefits and support them through the often labyrinthine and difficult process.
Some VFW posts also offer military honors at military veterans funerals and Color Guard services for other veterans events. I have the honor and privilege to serve on one of these Honor Teams. Recently we provided the 21 gun salute and Taps for the local observance of the Wreaths Across America event at a local military cemetery. We are regularly called upon to provide the same services at funerals for deceased military members.
The families of our deceased brothers and sisters deeply appreciate the pomp and circumstance that the Honor Guard brings to the burial ceremonies.
There are usually two active duty members representing the service that the fallen military serviceman or woman served with when they were on active duty. They generally handle the flag folding ceremony and the VFW Honor Guard gives the 21 gun salute and plays taps. After the flag is given to the nearest family member, our Honor Guard Captain gives the family three spent shells in a velvet bag as a remembrance of the honor given to the fallen veteran.
This is a very moving and memorable experience for all present. It is often so for us as well.
The Veterans Site thanks the VFW for all of the services they provide to our military veterans and to their local communities.Whizzco