The Veterans of Foreign War, to some people merely means a clambake, a convention, some marchers in a parade, or maybe just a "buddy" poppy every year around Memorial Day.
But to its thousands of members, the VFW is more than that--it is a way of life.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the complete title of the organization, is a national, non-partisan, non-sectarian, non-profit organization composed exclusively of men who have seen foreign service with Uncle Sam's armed forces.
The VFW is the oldest of all American veteran organizations. It was founded in 1899 and is chartered by Act of Congress.
Its emblem, the Cross of Malta, symbolizes the ideals of the organization. The Cross of Malta, almost 1,000 years old, was the standard of the Knights of St. John, the world's first brotherhood of men who fought to free the oppressed and ministered to the sick and needy.
One of the major obligations assumed by the VFW is assisting a veteran's dependents. When a VFW member dies, the organization stands ready to provide a home for is dependents.
Since 1925, the VFW National Home at Eaton Rapids, Mich., has been a refuge for children whose fathers were toally disabled or deceased.
From the first family, the widow and children of Sergeant Edward Pollett, it has grown to the extent that nearly 250 children may be cared for. From a single farm house and several farm buildings it has increased to nearly 50 units including a modern hospital, community center, day nursery, guest lodge, memory chapel, clothing and grocery store, on a 50 acre campus with nearly 600 acres of fertile farm, dairy and orchard land.
In each cottage on the modern, well planned campus, a family of boys and girls, under the guidance of a "house mother," are provided with a normal, healthy, refined family environment in which to grow into mature, useful citizens.
The children at the national home attend public schools in Eaton Rapids from Kindergarten through 12th grade and are encouraged to participate in school activities.
Each child receives religious instructions in his or her own faith, and attends regular services at the various churches in Eaton Rapids or at the memory chapel on the national home campus.
Facilities provided on the campus through the generosity of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and the Military Order of the Cooties, children at the National Home are given an opportunity for a variety of recreational outlets.
The national home has a gymnasium, theater, game rooms, hobby shops, athletic fields, playgrounds, shuffle board courts, tennis courts, and acres and acres of land for camping, fishing or cookouts.
Of the more than 200 graduates of the national home, over 150 have served in World war II or the Korean war. Others are in the business world, the ministry, on college staffs, or just plain housewives.
The national home has three principal sources of support; a percentage of the proceeds from the annual sale of VFW "buddy" poppies; life memberships in the home corporation; and the sale of National Home Christmas Seals.
Membership in the VFW is restricted to male officers and enlisted men, and those honorably discharged, who have served in any branch of the armed forces in any foreign war, insurrection, or expedition for which the United States government has issued a campaign badge.
Presently, there are about 10,000 VFW units in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Panama Canal zone, the Philippine Islands and Japan. About 7,000 of the posts have ladies auxiliaries.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is organized on five principal levels--post, county, district department, and national. The local unit is a post, several of which may be banded together to form a council. The council, in turn, is governed by the district.
The Military Order of Cootie (MOC), founded in 1921, is the "honor degree" of the VFW. The MOC devotes its energies to two worthy objectives--entertainment for hospitalized veterans and support of the national home.
The Schenectady county council is comprised of eight posts, five of which are located in the city while the remainder is located in Rotterdam, Delanson, and Cobleskill.