VFW, Auxiliary support local veterans

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Cullman VFW Post 2214 Post Commander Jerry Willibey, right, and Ladies’ Auxiliary President Dee Harris. / Nick Griffin

CULLMAN – Veterans of Foreign Wars is an organization that has been serving veterans and their communities since 1899 after the Spanish-American War. It was founded to secure benefits and rights for soldiers returning home from war and Cullman’s VFW Post 2214 continues that work today. Cullman’s VFW is very active in the community and contributes in a variety of ways, whether its conducting programs at schools or visiting veterans in nursing homes and hospitals.

Post 2214 Commander Jerry Willibey has been involved in the VFW for 16 years and has played many roles in the organization.

“I have held numerous positions over the years: commander, senior vice, junior vice, quarter master, I’ve filled in as the District One post commander and I have some state-level positions at the department in Montgomery,” Willibey said. “I go to all of the department meetings and conventions since I’m the commander and I’ve been chosen to be the central point for the Scouts program here so all of the Scouts programs in the state of Alabama will come to me in March and I will select the winner for the state and they’ll send it off to nationals.”

Willibey and his staff are currently working on their programs and fundraisers coming up in 2018 and already have a lot of planning in place.

“Ken Brown and I are on the yearly veterans committee and he does the planning for the aircraft and stuff that comes in for our program in November,” he said. “We’re in the process right now of planning the program here in 2018 and it’s going to be set up for the Iraqi era this year. We used to do it all ourselves, but it got so big that we couldn’t handle it. We didn’t have the manpower to do it, so we branched out and asked the Elks to help us and they help us, and we help them so that’s how we pay for everything. We’ll have meetings throughout the year about that function coming up in November. We’ll have things going on here at the Post as well. We’ll have fundraisers; right now we’re selling chances to win a Henry rifle for a fundraiser to support programs coming down the road. We host the district meeting once a year here at the Post and everyone from the state of Alabama will come in here for the meeting and we’ll provide the lunches for them and it helps everybody out for the Post to do that.”

The Cullman VFW’s Auxiliary, led by President Dee Harris, is happy to be able to help out Commander Willibey and the Post with its events as well as organizing some of its own.

“Every Tuesday we cook a meal for the public and we ask for a $5 donation. Veterans who need to eat are welcome to come and eat free,” Harris said. “We work with other fundraisers; we do Buddy Poppy with the members. This year we did the Veterans Day celebration that we had here at the Post, we did a Gold Star family memorial at Veterans Park, we have a girl scout troop that we work with and do things for and we make a lot of donations at the food bank and do fundraisers for families in need. We’re kind of the members’ backup on the major things, but we do our own different fundraisers.”

The Ladies’ Auxiliary and the Post also work with educational programs in the community. Harris and the Auxiliary work in any fundraiser that the Post is involved in on top of their own.

Harris said her motivation comes from her family’s roots in the military and a lot of her focus is dedicated toward bringing about legislative change to support veterans.

“Basically, the way I see it, the VFW is a lobby. The more numbers we have, the more politicians will pay attention when we have bills come before Congress and the Senate that involve veterans,” she said. “The more numbers we have on our rolls the better because it’s a voting block for people who are going to support veterans the way our president does. We send emails, we make phone calls and we write letters to our congressmen about bills coming before them that involve veterans. I did even before I worked with the VFW because my husband is a 26-year veteran, my dad was a World War II veteran, our son is a 15-year veteran, our daughter is a Navy veteran and our grandson is a Navy veteran, so I am laser focused on veteran’s issues and working to benefit them because they were made a lot of promises and those promises haven’t been kept.”

Harris is also involved in an organization dedicated to finding the cause of the up-tick in veteran suicides and finding ways to people help who need it.

“Another issue that is important to me is veterans suicide. We have the Blue Teardrop campaign that works to try and find the cause of all these veterans’ suicides,” she said. “There are 22 per day that die, but here in Cullman alone this past year there’s been how many? It’s up to 30 plus, something is wrong, and we need to find answers for that.”

Catch up with the VFW on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cullmanVFWPost.

Below is a list of activities for the Post and Auxiliary:

  • On the first Thursday of each month the Post provides a free meal prior to the scheduled business meeting.
  • By appointment, the Service Officers’ telephone number is on the east parking lot door; the Post will be opened to advise and assists veterans in their effort to receive the benefits earned by their service.
  • The Post Auxiliary hosts an Open Lunch (open to all) each Tuesday from 11:30 – 12:30.
  • The Post hosts live entertainment on most Saturdays, from 6:30 p.m. until…
  • The VFW sponsors an annual patriotic essay contest for local schools and provides cash prizes for winners at the Post, District, Department (state) and National levels.
  • The Post utilizes several fundraising means, Buddy Poppy Drives, an annual fishing tournament, as well as private donations, to provide financial help to veterans and veterans’ families in distress.
  • The Post member volunteers conduct patriotic programs and ceremonies at the city and county schools.
  • The Post member volunteers place United States flags along the main north, south, east and west highways leading into and out of Cullman four times a year during major patriotic holidays.
  • Post member volunteers place United States flags on the final resting places of Cullman city and county veterans on Memorial Day.
  • When requested by the family of deceased veterans, Post volunteers provide a ceremonial slow salute to honor their service.
  • Post member volunteers provide a float to the annual Cullman County Fair Parade and an informational booth at the fairgrounds.
  • Post member volunteers provide support to local Army National Guard members and their families during home station training and deployment.
  • Post and Auxiliary members periodically visit homebound and nursing home veterans.
  • Post member volunteers stage an annual Christmas banquet and party for member families and their guests.
  • The Post sponsors an annual Post, District, Department (state) and National law enforcement, fire fighter, and emergency medical award program.
  • The VFW sponsors an annual Post, District, Department (state) and National Eagle and Girl Scout Gold Award program.
  • The VFW sponsors an annual Post, District, Department (state) and National Teacher of the Year program.

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