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Veterans of Foreign Wars There For Veterans
by Army Sgt. V. Michelle Woods - November 7, 2011

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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
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 community.

“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 legislature.”

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,” said Irby.

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.

Irby said 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.

“It's hard 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 that."

For more information on joining or volunteering for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, go to www.vfw.org or stop into any local VFW organization.

By Army Sgt. V. Michelle Woods
1st Sustainment Brigade
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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