This Day in History… September 29, 1899

Founding the VFW

US #1525 – The VFW’s cross of Malta dates back to the Crusades and stands for the ideas of freedom, justice, and tolerance.

On September 29, 1899, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was founded in Columbus, Ohio.

As with many wars, soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. Those who were disabled during battle or as a result of tropical diseases found little assistance from the government.  There were no hospitals dedicated to treating veterans, no specialized medical care or veterans’ pensions.  They were left to fend for themselves.

US #1525 – Classic First Day Cover.

Eventually, these veterans began forming local groups based on their shared experiences in the war.  These groups created bonds and a sense of camaraderie that inspired the veterans to band together to help each other.  On September 29, 1899, a group of 13 veterans met in a Columbus, Ohio, tailor shop and established the American Veterans of Foreign of Service.  Their goal was to provide aid to their fellow veterans as well as the families of those who had died in the war or as a result of their injuries.

US #1525 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

In other parts of the country, similar groups began to form.  That December 12, the Colorado Society, Army of the Philippines, was founded in Denver, Colorado, for veterans of the Philippine Insurrection.  And shortly after, the Foreign Service Veterans was formed in Pennsylvania.  Over the next 15 years, similar groups would form and by 1914, the American Veterans of Foreign Service and the National Society of the Army of the Philippines were the largest.

US #962 – The VFW launched a large-scale campaign to establish the Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem.

On August 1, 1914, those two groups joined together to become the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.  Their major goals included creating a sense of camaraderie among US veterans of foreign conflict, to serve veterans, the military, and their communities, and to fight for the rights of all veterans. On May 28, 1936, Congress made the VFW a government-chartered non-profit organization.

Item #M11896 – Collection of 20 stamps issued during and in honor of several wars.

Throughout its more than 100 year history, the VFW has played a large part in every piece of veterans legislation that’s been passed – the GI Bill (and each of its new iterations over the years), creating the Veterans Administration, and developing a national cemetery system. They’ve also fought for better VA medical centers and helped to fund the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II, and Women in Military Service Memorials.  They were also the first veterans organization to provide funding for the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial and the National Desert Storm War Memorial.

US #1525 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

In the years since its creation, eight US presidents have been members of the VFW: Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush.  Other famous members include Carl Sandburg, Robert Kennedy, John J. Pershing, Alvin York, and Audie Murphy.

Today, there are nearly 6,500 VFW posts around the world serving more than 1.2 million members.

Click here for more from the VFW website.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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