Veterans of Foreign Wars

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"VFW" redirects here. For other uses, see VFW (disambiguation).
Veterans of Foreign Wars
of the United States
Veterans Of Foreign Wars Logo.jpg
Abbreviation V.F.W.
Established September 29, 1899; 116 years ago (1899-09-29)
Founder James Putnam
Merger of American Veterans of Foreign Service,
National Society of the Army of the Philippines
Type Veterans' organization
Legal status Federally chartered corporation
Purpose Fraternal, patriotic, historical, charitable, educational
Headquarters 406 West 34th Street,
Kansas City, Missouri
Region served
Membership (2014)
Official language
Commander in Chief
John Biedrzycki, Jr.
Senior Vice Commander in Chief
Brian Duffy
Junior Vice Commander in Chief
Keith Harman
National Council of Administration
Publication The Veteran of Foreign Wars
Affiliations Student Veterans of America
Slogan ″No One Does More for Veterans″
Formerly called
Army of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. is a federally chartered corporation formed in Columbus, Ohio on September 29, 1899 by Spanish–American War veterans of the Seventeenth U.S. Infantry.[1]


The objects of the organization are to: Speed rehabilitation of the nation’s disabled and needy veterans, assist veterans’ widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans, and promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and by constructive service to local communities. The national organization maintains both its legislative service and central office of its national rehabilitation service in Washington, D.C. The latter nationwide program serves disabled veterans of all wars, members and nonmembers alike, in matters of government compensation and pension claims, hospitalization, civil-service employment preference, and etc.”[2]


Membership in the V.F.W. is restricted to any active or honorably discharged officer or enlisted person who is a citizen of the United States and who has served in its armed forces “in any foreign war, insurrection or expedition, which service shall be recognized by the authorization or the issuance of a military campaign medal”.[2]

Partial list of United States campaign medals, ribbons, and badges the V.F.W. uses to determine membership eligibility:

Cross of Malta[edit]

The Cross of Malta is the V.F.W.'s official emblem. The cross, radiating rays, and Great Seal of the United States symbolize the character, vows and purposes distinguishing V.F.W. as an order of warriors who have traveled far from home to defend sacred principles. Its eight points represent the beatitudes prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure, the merciful, the peacemakers; blessed are they who mourn, seek righteousness and are persecuted for righteousness' sake. The eight-pointed Cross of Malta harks back to the Crusades, launched during the 12th century.[3]


M60 Main Battle Tank on display at C. Robert Arvin Post, No. 2408.

Three national military services programs were created to promote community involvement, communication and financial support to qualified military service members:

Operation Uplink connects deployed and hospitalized service members with their families through free phone calls. The V.F.W. provides Free Call Days twice a month to service members deployed abroad. Since then Free Call Days have provided service members with more than 4 million free phone calls home.

Unmet Needs was created through a corporate partnership to assist service members and their families who run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other hardships directly related to service. Unmet Needs assists with basic life needs such as mortgage and rent, home and auto repairs, insurance, utilities, food, and clothing. Unmet Needs helps meet unanticipated financial demands on service members' families that can not be remedied through existing means and provides service members with the comfort of knowing that their families have additional support stateside. The financial assistance is in the form of up to $2,500 in grants that do not need to be repaid. All grants are paid directly to the "creditor" (such as an electric company) and not to the individual. Each case is reviewed individually and acceptance determined by a committee.

Military Assistance Program is the most direct connection between military units and local V.F.W. posts. Through the program, posts have held going away, welcome home events, and unit picnics for numerous military units. In the last 5 years the program has helped Posts host more than 1 million service members and their families. The Adopt-a-Unit program also falls under Military Assistance Program and connects military units around the world with a local Post that can offer resources and support.[4]

Annually, the nearly 1.9 million members of the V.F.W. and subsidiaries contribute more than 8.6 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in National Volunteer Week. From providing over $3 million in college scholarships and savings bonds to students every year, to encouraging elevation of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the president's cabinet, the V.F.W. is there.[5]


The VFW was organized in 1913 as the result of a series of mergers of previous veterans organizations which consisted of veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. The VFW modeled its organization, terminology and ritual on the Grand Army of the Republic - an organization for veterans of all ranks who had served in the American Civil War.

The VFW grew rapidly after the First World War with hundreds of thousands eligible veterans returning from the war. As the American Legion was originally comprised exclusively of First World War veterans, this led to a friendly rivalry between the VFW and the American Legion as they competed for members and recognition as the premier veterans organization in the United States.

Between the two world wars the VFW focused on advocating for benefits for veterans as well as combating communism. After the Second World War millions more veterans were eligible to join the VFW. Membership steadily grew after the war peaking at about 2.5 million in 1993 with over 10,000 posts (local chapters) being established nationwide.

During the turbulent 1960s era the VFW supported the American involvement in the Vietnam War and condemned the counterculture trends of the era. Many VFW posts were unwilling to accept Vietnam veterans afterwards, but became more open to them as older veterans died off or their health did not permit them to attend meetings.

By the 2000s, the VFW faced a membership crisis due to the aging of WWII and Korea veterans and the lack of enrollment from veterans of more recent conflicts.

Notable members[edit]

Notable members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States have included:[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mason 1999, pp. 29, 39, 92.
  2. ^ a b "Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2015. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  3. ^ Mason 1999, p. 15.
  4. ^ "Programs & Projects" (PDF). Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  5. ^ "About Us". Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  6. ^ Mason 1999, pp. 9, 16, 47, 90-91, 118, 104, 132, 204.
  7. ^ Ford 1979, p. 62.


Further reading[edit]

  • Watch on the Rhine Post, No. 27, V.F.W. (1999). White, Dean A., ed. Watch on the Rhein: A History. Wiesbaden, Germany: Watch on the Rhine Post, No. 27, V.F.W. (published July 2, 1999). 

External links[edit]