‘We’re not a typical VFW!’

VFW Post 2214 Commander Brian Monk places an American flag on the grave of a veteran on Thursday, May 25, 2023. This outreach happens annually in the days leading up to Memorial Day. (contributed)

Nonprofit spotlight: VFW Post 2214

CULLMAN, Ala. – When you hear “VFW,” you might think of older gentlemen with caps bearing the seals of their military branches, bingo and boxed lunches. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is so much more than that. The Tribune sat down with Cullman VFW Post 2214 Commander Brian Monk to gain more insight into how this nonprofit veterans service organization benefits one of the community’s most vulnerable populations.

The post serves as a dedicated gathering place for combat veterans, and is open to any combat veteran, male or female, from any tour of duty or branch of service. For those who are not combat veterans themselves, but immediate family members or spouses of combat veterans, Post 2214 also boasts a very active auxiliary group.

Monk said his biggest priority concerning the post is making sure immediate needs are met and that the combat veterans in the community feel supported and empowered. He said that in addition to fellowship lunches every Tuesday and bingo every Friday, the post now acts as a central hub for many veterans to get vital information concerning United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, get connected with the Disables American Veterans (DAV) of Cullman and realize a broader and sometimes more impactful feeling of being in a community that “gets it.”

“The biggest thing for me as commander is making sure everyone is taken care of,” he said, referencing the higher rates of food insecurity, PTSD, addiction and suicide among combat veterans, and the general support they may need. The post also helps with more hands-on projects, like building wheelchair ramps for those combat veterans with mobility issues so they can enter and exit their homes comfortably.

The VFW runs solely on donations and sponsorships, and Monk admitted it is sometimes hard to help everyone, but that doesn’t stop him and other post officers from trying.

“We run off donations, so when the donations run dry it’s very hard to say no. But we’ll help anyone, in any way we can,” he said. “There’s some that we can’t help all the way, but we can make a dent and then point them in the right direction.”

Monk said outreach to veterans like himself is a round-the-clock job, and it doesn’t stop when the post locks up for the day. “I talked to a veteran at 2 a.m. for maybe an hour and a half the other day,” he said. “And that’s what he needed.”

When asked why a combat veteran should join the post, especially if he or she doesn’t fit into the “typical” VFW crowd, Monk laughed, “Well, we’re not a typical VFW! Whether you’re 25 or you’re 80, come join. There’s something for all of us. Look at our calendar; there’s always something you can get involved in. We want our veterans to feel like they have a purpose, still.”

VFW Post 2214 is located at 112 Veterans Dr. SW in Cullman. For more information, call 256-739-6611 or visit www.facebook.com/cullmanVFWPost.

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