Copyright Teri Darnell 2019. All rights reserved.
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Millions of American service members fought to protect and defend our democracy and freedom against foreign powers. Often injured and discarded by the government upon return from foreign wars, our veterans needed a place to heal. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was conceived by a group of veterans returning from campaigns on Cuba and in the Philippines beginning in 1898. Initially, VFW posts were established to help provide places for veterans to support each other. Post veteran commanders at VFWs throughout the United States helped integrate their local war heros back into society.
In 1984, VFW membership surpassed 2 million. Today, it is just over 1 million. Since active duty service in the United States military is on the decline, what will happen to these VFW posts?
After photographing VFW posts in 47 states, it became clear to me that commanders who give and receive support from their local communities are thriving and able to pay rent and other expenses to operate a non-profit business. In turn, they provide needed services to veterans and their families. But, “Your grandfather’s VFWs” (as they are affectionately called) are falling apart or left abandoned. These VFWs are known as a place for cheap liquor, smoking, and a dark dingy bars. Younger veterans may initially sign up for membership in these places but for many reasons don’t renew. On my journey, all veterans had the same high level of patriotism for our country. These service members were willing to give their lives to protect our freedom and democracy against foreign interference, and so many did.
Please support your local VFW's before they become another forgotten place in history.