GREAT FALLS — Across America, the VFW initials are a familiar sight, symbolizing a commitment to both the nation and to those who have served our country. As the Honor Guard struggles to recruit new members amidst a current lack in numbers, the future of the organization is called into question. The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veteran’s service organization consisting of eligible veterans and military service members from active, guard and reserve forces.
In 1899, veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection created local organizations to help obtain benefits for their service. As there was no medical care or pension, they were left to take care of themselves. Veterans then established organizations that would eventually become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
The purpose of the VFW is to provide aid to disabled veterans and those in need, assist their families, and instill a sense of pride in America through education and community service. Today, membership stands at more than 1.5 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary. However, local organizations are having trouble recruiting new members.
Jim Porter, a member of the Honor Guard, says the younger generation may not quite understand or have the ability to make this commitment yet. He said, “They don’t want to make that commitment yet, they’re not ready to make that commitment.”
As current members continue to age, medical appointments and other obstacles may arise that hinder the organization’s ability to provide for those who have served. Without willing participants ready to make the commitment, the organization may struggle to continue.
“I would say within 20 years these organizations would cease to exist because we don’t have the replacements coming up,” said Jim Benner, the Honor Guard coordinator.
As part of their national bylaws, there are two qualifiers for membership in the VFW. Individuals must have served in the Armed Forces of the United States and received discharge of Honorable or General or be currently serving. They must have also served in a war, campaign, or expedition on foreign soil or in hostile waters.
"What greater honor could there possibly be than to work the last detail for a comrade?" - Jim Porter
If you are not eligible for membership in the VFW but have a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or spouse who would be eligible, you can apply for membership in the VFW Auxiliary.
Click here to visit the Great Falls VFW website.
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