Commentary from VFW Post 4362 Commander Tom Ford about the dire need for veterans to join service organizations and help out other veterans.

FILE PHOTO - VFW Post 4362 Commander Tom Ford, left, on Veterans Day at the Veterans Memorial at Scappoose Heritage Park.

Another year in the rearview mirror. If 2016 was a person, I'd sue for pain and suffering.

All kidding aside, I have a serious request to make of all Columbia County veterans, and there are 6,000 of us: There is a need for you to join one of the service organizations, either the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Make that a resolution ... please.

We need members who can spare a single evening a month and can perform an occasional task several times a year. Doesn't sound like much, but the impact the two organizations has in the lives of veterans, both young and old, is significant.

The holidays and the employment picture take a toll on families and individual veterans alike. Struggling with bills, health care — either physical or mental — and trying to advance educationally are areas where veterans need a hand up. Each season seems to generate a new need. We need to step up. We need you.

The members of the VFW and American Legion do, on occasion, physically lend a hand, but it is usually through our sponsored or organized fundraising events that our efforts becomes real. Counseling is done by professionals, but it often couldn't be achieved without the guidance and sponsorship of VFW and American Legion programs.

This Christmas season we participated in food distribution to needy veterans and their families, toy drives, and the simple act of visiting retirement homes and convalescent facilities to let the veterans know their sacrifices are not forgotten. Just a couple of hours and the impact is amazing, heart-warming and satisfying. We need you.

It's always numbers that speak the loudest, and more numbers are what we need. The dues are not a big burden, only $35 a year, and the more members we have, the greater the funds going to the national offices to support legislation that helps veterans. There are expenses tied to having offices in the nation's capital, and it isn't cheap to have the adequate representation to apply the political pressure to insure the VA hospitals are upgraded. That sort of thing doesn't happen automatically. With an incoming administration seemingly inspired to correct the huge bureaucracy's faults, our support will get the momentum going to provide the physical and mental help for veterans who have served multiple tours in these decades-long conflicts. We need you.

I'm looking to the Afghan and Iraq veterans now. I realize you're working, raising a family, getting educated ... us older Vietnam vets have been there, done that. We understand. When the millions of the World War II veterans came home, they built the nation. Industry thrived and the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting halls were built — buffet dinner nights, Bingo, card rooms and dancing made the service halls the vibrant centers of a town's social life. 

We live in a different era now. Mobility and electronics have reshaped the modern family. Now, the organizations meet in schoolrooms, retirement centers or municipal buildings. The social whirlwind of the VFW and American Legion is a fond memory. Today, we provide service, one that is extremely necessary: veterans supporting veterans. We need to have each other's backs. Vietnam veterans are now 70 years old, or darn near it. Without some of the Afghan and Iraq vets joining, these organizations will literally die out. We need you.

Let me make a suggestion: On the first Friday of each month, about 30 veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and those who belong to neither organization gather at the Village Inn in St. Helens for an 8 a.m. breakfast. We enjoy a nice meal eating food some of us are not supposed to have, and we never tell. Some business is conducted, events are discussed, and we enjoy the company of friends and acquaintances. Circle it on your calendar for Friday, Jan. 6, or Friday, Feb. 3, and come on down to see what it feels like. You might gain an understanding of what the service organizations provide, and it might prompt you to explore the American Legion or the VFW. 

We need you.


Tom Ford is a Vietnam War veteran and commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4362 in Scappoose. He can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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