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VFW: 1899 to TODAY

Our mission: TO FOSTER CAMARADERIE among the United States' veterans of overseas conflicts. TO SERVE our veterans, the military, and our communities. TO ADVOCATE on behalf of all veterans.

Our visions for tomorrow: Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country. 

Our core values: To honor the dead by helping the living

  • Always put the interests of our members first

  • Treat donors as partners in our cause

  • Promote patriotism

  • Honor military service

  • Ensure the care of veterans and their families

  • Serve our communities

  • Promote a positive image of the VFW

  • Respect the diversity of veteran opinions

VFW's roots took hold in 1899. Veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) had returned home wounded and sick; there was no medical care or veteran pension. These vets founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service. The veterans and organizations banded together to form VFW. Chapters formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, and the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, the number hit almost 200,000.Since then, VFW?s voice has been instrumental in the fight for veteran rights. We succeeded in

  • establishing the Veterans Administration.

  • creating a GI Bill for the 21st Century.

  • developing a national cemetery system.

  • obtaining compensation for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

  • obtaining compensation for vets diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome

  • establishing the Secretary for Veterans Affairs as a cabinet-level position.

Today, VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary boast nearly 2.1 million members and 7,950 Posts worldwide. We continue to work to improve VA medical center services and benefit compensation for all veterans.We helped fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials. In 2001, VFW unveiled its tribute to service and country with the dedication of the Centennial Plaza. In 2005, VFW became the first veterans organization to contribute to the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which is expected to open in Washington, D.C., in 2010.Annually, VFW and Auxiliary members contribute more than 12 million hours of volunteer work in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week. From providing $2.5 million in college scholarships every year to encouraging elevation of VA to the President's Cabinet, VFW is there.Important moments in VFW history:1899: Various organizations of Spanish-American war veterans forms1914: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) forms from a merger of these groups1916: First national essay contest started. This would be the forerunner of today's Patriot's Pen and Voice of Democracy programs, essay and presentation contests, respectively, that reaffirm the value of patriotism to middle- and high-school students1921: 60,000 membersFemale WWI vets qualify for membership. Unfortunately, the organization takes a step backwards by not recognizing the contributions of female and subsequent generations of female veterans. In 1978, VFW righted this wrong. Today, female veterans of all generations play a vital role within the organization.First Americanization Day held April 27. Designed by the VFW as a response to fears of Communist influence on Labor Day, Americanization Day (known now as Loyalty Day) would become a legal holiday in 1958.1922: VFW begins distributing Buddy Poppies. Inspired by Colonel John McCrae"s 1915 poem, "In Flanders Field", the red poppies are a symbol of the sacrifices that military service members have made for freedom. Over one billion Buddy Poppies have since been distributed. Proceeds from Buddy Poppies (assembled by disabled vets) go to VFW Post Relief Funds for distribution to disabled veterans, the VFW National Home or similar facilities dedicated to the care of veterans, as well as memorials to those individuals who continue to lay down their lives on behalf of this country and its freedoms.1929-30: VFW members lead an expedition to recover US remains in northern Russia. The casualties, killed in the fighting of the Bolshevik Revolution that occurred after World War I, had been part of a 5000-strong American force sent to support Russian Imperial forces. The expedition recovered remains of 86 of reported 127 service members left buried in foreign soil. This event would become the template for a VFW mission that continues to this day: finding and bringing home our comrades-in-arms by engaging our former enemies.1930: VFW National Headquarters occupies its current building in Kansas City, MO. The area was chosen for its geographic centrality.1932: VFW condemns the actions of the US government for its violent response to the Bonus Expeditionary Force, a group of some 20,000 veterans and their families seeking bonuses for their World War I service. The BEF gathered in Washington, DC, starting on Memorial Day, May 30. Anxious to see legislation passed to support the awarding of bonuses, the gathering remained mostly peaceful with the support of friends in the local police force, Congress, and veteran organizations. By late July, however, the situation had changed. Minor skirmishes with police and continuing failures to pass legislation resulted in a tense atmosphere. On July 28, US military forces drove the BEF from DC with light tanks, tear gas, and the flats of sabers. This would lead the VFW into a long-term struggle to ensure that veterans receive the compensation they have earned through their service.1937: VFW HQ appropriates $10,000 for victims of Ohio River Valley floods. The mission of supporting our communities in times of crisis continues to this day. In 2005, over $ 400,000 was given to Katrina disaster relief alone.1944: VFW puts forth the first education bill to Congress from a veterans organization. This bill would become the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, more popularly known as the GI Bill. Passage was made possible through a coalition of veteran organizations and dedicated congressman who worked against those claiming that it was an unnecessary expense. By July 25, 1956, 2,232,000 World War II veterans had enrolled using the GI Bill. The VFW would be at the forefront of each subsequent GI Bill.1946: VFW reaches 1,544,444 members.1950: Life membership program is instituted. Members can now make a one-time payment. In 2008, life member installment pay plans are instituted to make the cost more affordable. Thanks to automatic billing, members need no longer worry about dues invoices in the mail.1958: VFW's national encampments are now designated national conventions.1968: Tet Aggression Relief Project raises $85,000 for South Vietnamese civilians and disabled veterans.1981: VFW wins first-ever case for PTSD disability compensation.1982: VFW contributes $300,000 to Vietnam Veterans Memorial.1984: VFW has over 2 million members.

  • First Vietnam Veteran becomes VFW Commander-in-Chief (National Commander).

  • VFW contributes $70,000 to Vietnam Women's Memorial.

  • Montgomery GI Bill is enacted.

1989: SGT Charles R. McCurtain Post 10789 chartered in Brentwood California

1990: VFW contributes first installment of $650,000 to Korean War Memorial.

1991: Operation Hometown sends care packages to more than 100,000 service members in Desert Shield/Storm.

1995: VFW Posts donate $40,000 to victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

1996: Operation Uplink begins distributing phone cards to deployed and hospitalized service members. This program would become a cornerstone of National Military Services' programs to continue supporting America's service members deployed around the world.

1998: Voice of Democracy reaches $2.6 million in college scholarships.

2008: 21st Century GI Bill becomes law. This important achievement for today's veterans was the culmination of a 10 year effort by the VFW.

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