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The Veterans of Foreign Wars, also known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc., is an American veterans' organization established on September 29, 1899, whose membership consists of armed-forces veterans who, as United States Army soldiers, United States Navy sailors, United States Marines, United States Coast Guard sailors, and/or United States Air Force airmen, served the U.S. in wars, campaigns, and expeditions on foreign soil or hostile waters.[2][3][4]

Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans Of Foreign Wars Logo.jpg
Abbreviation VFW
Established September 29, 1899; 118 years ago (1899-09-29)
Founder James C. Putnam
Merger of
  • American Veterans of Foreign Service
  • National Society of the Army of the Philippines
Type 501(c)(19) – U.S. war veterans organization[1]
Legal status 36 U.S.C. 2301U.S. chartered corporation
Purpose Fraternal, patriotic, historical, charitable, and educational
Headquarters Kansas City, Missouri
Coordinates 39°04′01″N 94°35′28″W / 39.0668144°N 94.591009°W / 39.0668144; -94.591009
Region served
Membership (2016)
Keith E. Harman
B. J. Lawrence
William J. Schmitz
National Council of Administration
Publication VFW Magazine
Affiliations Student Veterans of America
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015) $89,099,521[1]
Employees (2014)
Volunteers (2014)
Slogan "No One Does More for Veterans"
Formerly called
Army of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico



The purpose of the VFW is to speed rehabilitation of the nation’s disabled and needy veterans, assist veterans’ widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans, and promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and by constructive service to local communities. The organization maintains both its legislative service and central office of its national rehabilitation service in Washington. The latter nationwide program serves disabled veterans of all wars, members and nonmembers alike, in matters of U.S. government compensation and pension claims, hospitalization, civil-service employment preference, and etc.”[4]


Cross of MaltaEdit

The Cross of Malta is the VFW's official emblem. The cross, radiating rays, and Great Seal of the United States together symbolize the character, vows and purposes distinguishing VFW as an order of warriors who have traveled far from home to defend sacred principles. Its eight points represent the beatitudes prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure, the merciful, the peacemakers; blessed are they who mourn, seek righteousness and are persecuted for righteousness' sake. The eight-pointed Cross of Malta harks back to the Crusades, launched during the 12th century.[5][6]

The VFW emblem was inspired by the insignia of Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). The MOLLUS insignia was designed in 1865 by jewelers Bailey, Banks and Biddle and features a Maltese cross with radiating rays and an eagle emblem at the center. The ribbons of the two organizations are also similar, except that the VFW ribbon has a narrow yellow stripe in the center of the ribbon.[citation needed]

Prior to the Second World War, officers of the VFW wore a miniature shoulder strap showing the rank insignia of their office at the top of the ribbon of their emblem. This practice originated with the Grand Army of the Republic and continued with the Army and Navy Union and the United Spanish War Veterans.[citation needed]


M60 Main Battle Tank on display at C. Robert Arvin Post No. 2408.

Three national military services programs were created to promote community involvement, communication and financial support to qualified military service members: Operation Uplink connects deployed and hospitalized service members with their families through free phone calls. The VFW provides Free Call Days twice a month to service members deployed abroad. Since then Free Call Days have provided service members with more than 4 million free phone calls home. Unmet Needs was created through a corporate partnership to assist service members and their families who run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other hardships directly related to service. Unmet Needs assists with basic life needs such as mortgage and rent, home and auto repairs, insurance, utilities, food, and clothing. Unmet Needs helps meet unanticipated financial demands on service members' families that can not be remedied through existing means and provides service members with the comfort of knowing that their families have additional support stateside. The financial assistance is in the form of up to $5,000 in grants that do not need to be repaid. All grants are paid directly to the "creditor" (such as an electric company) and not to the individual. Each case is reviewed individually and acceptance determined by a committee. Military Assistance Program is the most direct connection between military units and local VFW posts. Through the program, posts have held going away, welcome home events, and unit picnics for numerous military units. In the last five years the program has helped Posts host more than 1 million service members and their families. The Adopt-a-Unit program also falls under Military Assistance Program and connects military units around the world with a local Post that can offer resources and support.[7] Annually, the nearly 1.7 million members of the VFW and subsidiaries contribute more than 8.9 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in National Volunteer Week. From providing over $3 million in college scholarships and savings bonds to students every year, to encouraging elevation of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the president's cabinet, the VFW is there.[8]


The VFW was reorganized in 1913 as the result of a series of mergers of previous veterans organizations which consisted of veterans of the Spanish–American War and the Philippine Insurrection. The VFW modeled its organization, terminology and ritual on the Grand Army of the Republic—an organization for veterans of all ranks who had served the North during the American Civil War, but kept the "foreign" aspect of the organization, thus excluding the Civil War veterans. The VFW grew rapidly after the First World War with hundreds of thousands eligible veterans returning from the war. As the American Legion was originally composed exclusively of First World War veterans, this led to a friendly rivalry between the VFW and the American Legion as they competed for members and recognition as the premier veterans organization in the United States.[citation needed]

Between the two world wars, the VFW focused on advocating for benefits for veterans as well as combating communism. After the Second World War, millions more veterans were eligible to join the VFW. Membership steadily grew after the war peaking at about 2.5 million in 1993 with over 10,000 posts (local chapters) being established nationwide. During the turbulent 1960s era, the VFW supported the American involvement in the Vietnam War and condemned the counterculture trends of the era. Many VFW posts were unwilling to accept Vietnam veterans afterwards, but became more open to them as older veterans died off or their health did not permit them to attend meetings.[citation needed]

By the 2000s, the VFW faced a membership loss due to the aging of World War II and Korean War veterans and the lack of enrollment from veterans of more recent conflicts. Vietnam veterans began joining the organization in larger numbers in the 1980s and 1990s. Leadership of the organization has long been held by Vietnam veterans, but the most recent National Commander (Brian Duffy, 2017-2018) is a Desert Storm veteran.[citation needed]

Notable membersEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax." Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Guidestar. August 31, 2015.
  2. ^ Mason, Jr. 1999, pp. 29, 39, 92.
  3. ^ "National Bi-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual" (2017 Podium ed.) 2016, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b c "Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015. Retrieved November 14, 2016. 
  5. ^ Mason, Jr. 1999, p. 15.
  6. ^ "National Bi-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual" (2017 Podium ed.) 2016, p. 43.
  7. ^ "Programs & Projects" (PDF). Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  8. ^ "About Us". Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  9. ^ Mason, Jr. 1999, pp. 9, 16, 47, 90–91, 118, 104, 132, 204.
  10. ^ Ford 1979, p. 62.


  • Ford, Gerald R. (1979). A Time To Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-011297-2. LCCN 78020162. OCLC 4835213. OL 4731652M. 
  • Mason, Jr., Herbert Molloy (1999). VFW: Our First Century. Foreword by Senator Chuck Hagel. Lenexa, Kansas: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. ISBN 1-88611072-7. LCCN 99-24943. OCLC 777720483 – via Addax Publishing Group. 
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Congressional Charter, National By-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual (2017 Podium ed.). Kansas City, Missouri: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. 2016. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit