By ROB W. ANDERSON
In unwavering devotion for 113 years, the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been committed to assisting the men and women who bravely serve in this country’s armed forces.
Each year on Sept. 29, VFW Day is held to recognize the organization and its loyal members who seek to help and support not only U.S. military veterans in need, but their loved ones.
Tahlequah VFW Post 3707 Commander John Martin served his country for 20 years in the Air Force, and before retiring from the military, he spent 10-1/2 years helping his fellow soldiers and their families with benefits and other needs as a service officer.
“I didn’t really retire. I’ve been doing that ever since I retired,” he said. “I’m at the building on the first and third Wednesday of the month from 10 [a.m.] to noon, and if someone comes in at 12, I’ll stay until we take care of what’s needed. Our [Disabled American Veterans], which is in the same building, are supposed to have a service officer available on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 10 [a.m.] to 1 [p.m.] And we have a service officer who works outreach out of a church there in [Tahlequah]. His name is Ray Sears.”
Martin said the Tahlequah VFW and Auxiliary Post 3707,128 E. Choctaw, meet on the second Monday of the month from noon to 1 p.m. A meal is held prior to the meeting at 11:30 a.m., and any veteran or their family member is invited to attend. The veteran does not have to be a member of the organization to be part of the activity, he said.
“On those Wednesdays, we have it set up for any veteran. They don’t have to be a member of any of the organizations,” he said.
“We have coffee and doughnuts to share to just shoot the bull, if they want. If they need to come in for benefit counseling, I can take care of that while they’re there. We don’t have a phone in the building, but I use my cell phone a lot to help people. I get folks who call me at home. If they have a need, I will go to them.”
The VFW Ladies Auxiliary also helps in the mission of aiding and supporting U.S. military families by conducting food drives, visiting veterans in the hospital and even playing bingo, said Tahlequah VFW Ladies Auxiliary President Earlene Rystedt, who is also a secretary for the Illinois River Fire Department. The VFW bingo game helped provide an opportunity to support an area fire department in purchasing pink cancer-awareness shirts to establishing a year-round food drive.
“We found a place to order the pink shirts for the fire department with the fire department logo, but the only problem was they had to order in bulk. I said I’ll see what I can do at bingo and I started into my spiel and people started raising their hands before I finish what I saying,” said Rystedt. “There were 29 bingoers and they all bought shirts. So, when the shirts came in a couple of weeks later, we took a picture. That would be the VFW bingo players who support cancer prevention and the fire department.”
Martin said a picnic for veterans and their families will be held this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Elks Lodge.
“It’s for all the organizations. All the veterans and their families are invited to come,” he said.
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