Veterans of Foreign Wars members Staff Sgt. Allen Owens, electronic
warfare non-commissioned officer, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st
Infantry Division and VFW 4th District Department of Kansas Senior
Vice Commander (right), and past state commander for Kansas VFWs,
Phil L. Irby (left), helped to host a barbecue for the Warrior
Transition Battalion in Junction City, Kan., this past August. Photo
by Army Sgt. V. Michelle Woods, Aug. 1, 2011
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (11/4/2011) - Each year the VFW, in conjunction
with multiple military organizations such as the American Legion,
host Veterans Day parades across the country to honor the small
percentage of Americans who have served in the armed forces during a
time of war.
In honor of this Veterans Day, the Junction
City VFW Post 8773, in a combined effort with the American Legion,
Disabled American Veterans and Purple Heart Society, are scheduled
to host a Veterans Day Parade Nov. 11, beginning at the Nazarene
Church, 1025 S Washington Street, Junction City, Kan., at 11 a.m.
For retired Army veteran and past state commander for Kansas
VFWs Phil L. Irby, Veterans Day is about taking time to thank the
service men and women who are serving the country today.
“Some of them are on their fourth and fifth deployments,” he said.
“Our National Guard and Reserve units have really been
utilized a lot. I feel we should honor especially them this Veterans
Day because they have put in a lot.”
The VFW's contribution to honoring veterans is not
limited to an annual parade. In addition to the Veterans Day
parade, the VFW focuses on supporting veterans and the local
“Our motto is ‘we honor our dead by
helping the living and the community,' said Irby, who has
been a VFW member since 1995. “We have four main focuses:
community service, veterans' service, youth development and
The VFW has roots as far back as 1889
when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the
Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) came together to fight
for guaranteed rights and benefits for veterans. Members of
today continue those efforts.
“They got together
because a lot of them were having ailments and injuries from
the wars and they combined themselves and lobbied to
Congress that they wanted veterans to be taken care of,”
Today, the VFW National Military Services
offer support to qualifying service members in many ways to
include providing financial assistance and free phone calls
and care packages to deployed Soldiers.
one goal of the VFW is to ensure men and women serving today
are aware of their benefits.
“A lot of service
members get out and think they feel fine,” he said. “Then
after about a year or two they are out of the service, they
notice something is wrong. A lot of them don't know how to
go to the Veterans Affairs and file claims. In all VA
hospitals around the country, we have what we call VFW
service officers. They're there to help the veterans fill
out his or her paperwork and send it through for them to get
their claim processed.”
“We can host deployment
parties or coming home parties,” said Irby, a Desert Storm
veteran. “We can help the spouse with financial problems, if
they run into any. We also sponsor the free phone cards for
Soldiers deployed overseas.”
"We have a lot of
different programs that we support for veterans and their
family members and we do a lot of great things for the
community,” said Owens, who has deployed four times in
support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and
Operation Enduring Freedom. “We recognize civic leaders,
teachers, firefighters and police officers. We just try to
help our veterans the best we can."
Owens added, "The
VFW lobbies Congress to maintain and improve veterans'
benefits after retirement and improve VA hospitals, which
really have a bad name."
In addition to medical
benefits and care, Irby said the VFW lobbied for 10 years
for the new GI Bill which was approved by former president
George W. Bush.
Owens said the VFW is also a place
for camaraderie among veterans of all generations, who are
retired, discharged or currently serving on active duty.
"There are differences between the generations but I
think the common thread is a sense of national pride,” said
the 22-year veteran and California native. “It's a volunteer
Army, of course Vietnam on back there were drafts, but we
live in an all-volunteer service today. We do it by choice
and for love of country because God knows we're not getting
rich doing it."
Owens said the VFW is a community
where service members can go and be around peers who have a
mutual understanding and common ground that might not be
understood by those who haven't served.
to tell a civilian that a 19-year-old in the Army or Marine
Corp has done more before his 21st birthday than most grown
men would dare to attempt in a lifetime,” he said.
Irby, a Memphis, Tenn., native, added, “Even though some of
us are now discharged from service, it's a way we can relate
to each other on how we have served our country. We stepped
up, volunteered, in some cases were drafted, but we stepped
up to that challenge. It's a way we can always rally around
each other and help each other.”
Owens and Irby
emphasized the importance of keeping the VFW active and
recruiting new members.
Irby said one reason he feels
the VFW is important is so that all veterans, past and
present will always have somebody there to support them.
"If you look in most of your VFW posts now, the average
age is 70 or above, and as patriotic as they are, God love
them, they just don't have the energy to do the things that
need to be done anymore,” said Owens. “They really need the
younger generation to step up. There are wonderful programs
but they just need to be executed by those who have the time
and energy to do it."
For Owens, American veterans
are one of the reasons citizens of the United States can
enjoy the luxury of freedom. As a veteran's rights group,
the VFW must remain active in order to continue to lobby for
veterans and their families.
"I hate to be corny and
clich� but America is the land of the free, because of the
brave and the sacrifices that are made from service men and
women all over the world, throughout history,” said Owens.
“It's got to stay active, because if it doesn't, like
anything else, eventually it will die and we can't have
For more information on joining or
volunteering for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, go to
or stop into any local VFW organization.
By Army Sgt. V. Michelle Woods
1st Sustainment Brigade
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