Sixty years ago, the Veterans of Foreign Wars opened a post in Oak Harbor to serve the men and women adjusting to civilian life at the end of World War II. Today the post also serves veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. And these folks in turn reach out to the community in a myriad ways.
The sixtieth anniversary of this heritage of public service will be honored today, Saturday, May 13. From 2 to 5 p.m., there will be an open house at 3037 Goldie Road. Ceremonies will follow to mark this anniversary milestone from 5 to 6 p.m. There will be time to socialize until 8 p.m., when the music and dancing will begin.
No doubt, people attending the festivities will look back at the post's beginnings.
The VFW Whitehead-Muzzall Post 7392 was chartered May 12, 1946, and named in honor of Claude Whitehead and Murray Muzzall. The Oak Harbor men were members of the Army Air Corps who died overseas during the war. Some of their family members still reside on Whidbey Island.
The national VFW organization was originally started in 1899, following the Spanish American War, to help returning vets who had no pensions or sick benefits. It has come a long way since those early days of advocating for veterans' rights, serving returning vets from all wars in the intervening years. The VFW now boasts about 2.5 million members and 9,000 posts throughout the United States.
The Oak Harbor post started with 61 members and has grown to over 1,013, with 336 Ladies Auxiliary members, said Cecil Pierce, Senior Vice Commander of the Post.
"We are one of the largest posts in Washington State and we are active with the veterans and the community. At first we met in Oak Harbor in people's houses, other community places and finally at our present location," he said.
"As a veterans' fraternal organization our first commitment is to veterans and their families. Our motto is: "We honor the dead by serving the living." We provide emergency relief for needy veterans, veterans' benefits advice and assistance, funeral and graveside services, memorial observances and employment aid," he said.
Volunteers from the VFW assist at Help House in Oak Harbor, SEA-TAC USO Lounge, and other deserving associations. They provide wheelchairs, crutches, and other medical equipment, and they build ramps for people in need.
Volunteers also visit hospitals, senior center, and people who bedridden in an effort to bring a little sunshine, Pierce said.
"We are participants of Island County's Adopt-a-Road program and host free coffee rest stops for weary travelers during peak travel seasons. It is our honor to provide a Color Guard for local parades and events, something we have been doing long before the recent surge in patriotism," Pierce said.
The Post, along with the City of Oak Harbor, created and now maintain the Veterans Memorial Park at the entrance to the Seaplane Base.
The vets also help young people. They sponsor speaking and essay contests, a night out for girls, an Easter egg hunt, and NJROTC. They also donated more than $1,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors and will provide speakers for classroom presentations.
Even the VFW building plays a role in the community. It is the meeting place for the North Whidbey Lions Club, the Puget Sound Anglers, the RC Club and other groups.
"We also host our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners so nobody has to eat alone," he said. "We sponsor blood drives that give the gift of life. We host a free seniors' Christmas party that entertains over 200 people each year, along with other themed events throughout the year."
Over 60 years, VFW Post 7392 has become a vital part of the Oak Harbor community. Stop by today and say thanks.