Essay Project 2021: VFW and the Community
By MacLane Renn
You may have heard the name, seen the building, or know someone who is involved with the VFW, but what is it exactly? The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, or the VFW, is an organization made by and for veterans and their families. The VFW aims to service not only veterans but the communities they live in as well. The VFW is a very important part of life in Portland and the town would simply not be the same without it.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars can trace its roots back to the veterans of the Spanish-American war in 1898 and the later Philippine Insurrection in 1899. They returned back from overseas often wounded or sick, and with little medical care or attention here at home, they banded together to create an organization to provide for veterans in need. That organization would eventually become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The movement spread nation-wide and now has more than one and a half million members. The VFW also worked to create the Veterans Administration, pass legislation to provide for veterans, and to erect memorials recognizing the sacrifice of servicemen and women in the line of duty. For many years now, the VFW has been a symbol of the community and support for those in need, not just for veterans. The Portland VFW, post 4090, was chartered in 1945 and originally met at the Portland Country Club as they then had no place to meet. The building where they currently meet was bought in 1947 for only 8,500 dollars.
In terms of aid for veterans, the VFW provides a plethora of assistance to veterans in need. They provide financial assistance for veterans and their families via the Veteran’s Relief Fund, help veterans out with medical needs such as building wheelchair ramps and helping with medical appointments. They provide ceremonial services such as veterans’ funerals, historical markers and memorials. The statue devoted to Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Edwin Goodrich in the Portland Cemetery is an example of such a memorial. They also care for the servicemen and women overseas in conflicts currently ongoing, too, by working in tandem with the Blue Star Mothers to send care packages to deployed troops.
The VFW aims to always put the community first, and they have many programs to accomplish just that. The VFW works with the schools with things like the Voice of Democracy essay contest, the Patriot’s Pen contest, and the Teacher of the Year award. The funds from the Voice of Democracy go to the school and to scholarships for students. The VFW rents out their hall to anyone who needs it, for things like gatherings, parties, fundraisers, non profits, and benefit dinners, and those proceeds go to the VFW and to the community as well. The VFW provides free use of durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, and hospital beds for anyone in the community who needs it. The VFW donates US flags to schools and retires old flags in a special flag-retirement ceremony done at the VFW hall. They provide a summer camp called Camp Trotter, which is open to kids seven to twelve years old and focuses on nature, science, art, patriotism, and self improvement.
The VFW gets its funding from the fundraisers as well as proceeds from the Buddy Poppy program. The Buddy Poppy program allows people to show their support for veterans, and it allows them to also donate money to the VFW. The Buddy Poppy program makes and distributes poppies to people on Veteran’s Day. The symbol of the poppy is important, and comes from the poem titled “In Flanders Fields”. The poem was written by a World War I veteran by the name of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Army. It talks about the great loss of the first World War, and the grief that he has. After the poem was written, two women named Anna Guerin of France and Moina Michael of Georgia sold artificial poppies to help those affected by the first World War. The flowers became a symbol of remembrance in all allied nations such as the United States, Britain, Canada, and France. The VFW later adopted the poppy as its official flower and continues to make and sell them today.
The VFW is a major part of life in Portland, not just for veterans and veterans’ families. Through the VFW, the whole community benefits. Fundraising events such as the Buddy Poppy program, use of the VFW hall for events, and awards given to special community members are only a few of the things that the VFW does for us. Without the VFW, life in Portland would be completely different.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.