This year marks the 77th anniversary of the charter for Gloversville Post 2077 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Chartered April 17, 1931, the VFW started on South Main Street, moved to Bleecker Street and built a new building from scratch in 1970 on Third Avenue.
Quartermaster Jim Miller said qualifications for membership at the VFW include being in a hostile war zone. To be an auxiliary member, one must have a family member who was stationed in a war zone.
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Gloversville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2077 member Alfred Pettit Jr. stands next to the VFW van parked outside the hall on Third Avenue Thursday.
Miller said both men's and ladies auxiliaries are part of the post, although the ladies auxiliary of more than 100 members outnumbers the male auxiliary three to one.
He also said the post is a non-profit entity which exists to aid needy veterans and their families as well as aid community charities and events. The VFW can only raise money through memberships and events, Miller said.
Nationally, Miller said the VFW contributes $3 million per year in scholarships alone.
Miller served in Korea in 1981 and again from 1983 to 1984. He said Korea is still a "hot zone" where 150 GIs are killed yearly by hostile fire along the border between North and South Korea.
He said the national VFW organization began in 1899 when Spanish-American War vets and veterans of the Philippine Insurgence returned home to find they had no support if wounded or disabled once discharged.
"The VFW was started due to the lack of assistance veterans were getting," Miller said.
He also said the VFW started the Veterans' Administration, which is a separate entity.
Marine Sgt. Alfred Pettit Jr. said he enlisted to go to South Vietnam from 1966 to 1967.
"I thought of myself as old when I enlisted," Pettit said. "A lot of the guys were 18 and 19 and I was in my 20s."
Miller said many people have misconceptions about VFWs.
"We don't all wear [camouflage] and swap war stories," Miller said.
Many community programs are run by the VFW, including annual Christmas parties for needy children, essay contests like the "Patriots' Pen" theme of 300 to 400 words which can garner a $10,000 savings bond and the "Voice of Democracy" theme which has a first prize of a $30,000 scholarship for high school youths.
We aren't limited to vets," Miller said. "The scholarships aren't limited to vets' kids."
Another community program the VFW has is the "Operation Uplink" which collects used cell phones, adds minutes and activation so that soldiers stationed overseas can call home without charge.
"Each conflict has different technology," Pettit said. "In Vietnam we had crank phones and the MARS System. There were long delays [between outgoing speech and incoming replies]."
Pettit agreed with Miller on the community outreach of the VFW as well as their cooperative work with American Legion and Disabled American Veterans groups.
"We all try to help out and work together," he said. "We work together on our Christmas party, and annual clam smear."
The VFW Ladies Auxiliary also has special charity emphasis on cancer awareness. Their local charity of choice is Mountain Valley Hospice.
Auxiliary President Terry Quackenbush said the main objective of the group was to support the men of the post.
"We help with the Buddy Poppy relief fund for needy members, too," she said.
Quackenbush said the monthly meeting of the regular members is the first Wednesday of each month, men's auxiliary meet the first Tuesday and women's auxiliary the first Thursday - all at 7 p.m.
Miller said activities start at the post level, then go outward to county, district, state and national levels.
"Our members range in age from 23 to 92," he said. "People don't tend to join until they are older - in their 40s - by then they usually have families that can come in as auxiliary members."
Pettit said most veterans are discharged and "want to get on with life," and so don't join a local VFW.
"The stigma attached to VFWs is unrealistic," Miller said.
He said topics of conversation tend to be about NASCAR, football and baseball like any other fraternal or social group.
"Anyone can rent the hall for community functions," he said. "We have bands here some Saturday nights and are open to the public."
Miller said the VFW also provides full military honor guards for funerals from 21-gun salutes to flag folding ceremonies. There is never a cost attached to their services.
"We're all volunteers," he said.
"People run into vets every day and don't realize it," he said. "We're here to help."
Bob Rohl was at the post Thursday as a visitor from the Lake Pleasant VFW post where he was commander for 23 years.
"I'm still active up there," he said. "Any post member can go to any other post."
He said they often have members from posts in Florida who are seasonal residents.
With special member services like medical transport with the VFW's van, Miller said he was proud of the activities of the local post.
"We realize we may eventually merge with other American Legions and Disabled American Veterans, but right now each one doesn't want to lose their identity," he said.
While there was a lot of good-natured kidding between members of the different armed forces, Miller said they all got along pretty well.
"We've never had to remove anyone from the premises due to arguing," he said.
For more information call the post at 725-5922 or stop by the 20 Third Ave. location after noon daily.
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.