Veteran’s Day was November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m. It is worthy to note that this day was originally referred to as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I.
My name is Dan Boomgaarden and I am a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict. There are, to the best of my knowledge, three living veterans of World War II in our community. The ranks of Korean & Vietnam are dwindling as well. The fact is anyone who is now serving or has served in the armed forces of the United States or National Guard is a veteran.
Since we are about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I (the war to end all wars and we all know how that worked out), let me tell about the primary veteran’s service organizations in our community.
The American Legion was founded March 16, 1919 at the American Club in Paris, France. The leading officer was Lt. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, the son of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was chartered by the U.S. Congress September 16, 1919. Legion activities today include organizing and participating in community events, provide aid to V.A. hospitals and clinics. At the national level the Legion is active in issue-oriented U.S. policy, primarily lobbying Congress concerning support of benefits such as pensions and Veterans health administration. The Legion played the leading role in drafting and passing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the “G.I. Bill”.
The primary activities of the Legion on a local level are;
1. Boy’s State: an activity providing high school Junior boys the opportunity to spend a week at the State Capitol learning the process of Government.
2. Girl’s State: sponsored by the Legion Auxiliary in the same manner as Boy’s State.
3. Legion youth baseball, providing equipment, leadership, league structure, etc. For local youth.
Eligibility for membership in the American Legion requires that one must have served in the Armed Forces of the United States during wartime and, unless on active duty, have been honorably discharged. Merchant Marines who served from December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946 are also eligible for membership.
The Veteran’s of Foreign Wars of the United States origins are the result of an amalgamation of several veteran societies formed following the Spanish-American War, who served in Cuba or the Philippine Islands. The American Veteran’s of Foreign Service (predecessor of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars of the United States) was established in Columbus, Ohio on September 29, 1899 by Spanish-American War veteran James C. Putnam. There were several similar organizations across America who corresponded with each other and held an encampment in Denver, Colorado on December 12, 1899. Shortly thereafter a society known as the Foreign Service Veteran’s was formed. These two organizations grew in scope and membership until 1913 when they held a joint encampment once again in Denver when they merged to become what is now known as the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars of the United States.
VFW is active in participating in various community activities much the same, and often combined with the American Legion.
The primary community functions are:
1. Voice of Democracy; each year more than 39,000 high school students across America enter the Voice of Democracy contest to win a share of $2.2 million in educational scholarships. They will also receive cash awards on a local, district and state level.
2. Patriot’s Pen; challenges students, grades 6 through 8 to enter a written essay to win 46 national awards totaling $46,000 plus an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. For the first place winner. There will be cash awards on a local, district and state level.
3. Scout of the Year: These scouts must be Eagle/Gold award members of the boy/girl scout’s, Sea Explorer or Venture crew who have demonstrated practical citizenship in school, community and scouting. First place winners receive cash awards on the local, district, and national level.
4. Teacher of the Year: This program recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teach Americanism and Patriotism to their students. These teachers, one from Elementary, Jr. High/Middle and High School will be recognized on a local, district and state level.
Membership in the VFW is restricted to veteran’s or active duty members of the Armed Forces of the United States who are a citizen of the United States, who have served in a combat zone that was issued a United States Campaign Medal.
These two veterans organizations are the backbone of present day Americanism. They often work together in their common interests. It is not unusual for veterans to be enrolled in both organizations. Both organizations are proud of their status as upholders of patriotism and service.
Those interested in joining either or both organizations should contact Roy Gibson VFW Commander 208-589-7182 or Ron Derrick American Legion Commander 208-569-0126 or 208-745-7640.