How the final VFW publish in a single metropolis is shaking issues up

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New Orleans’ final remaining Veterans of International Wars publish is breaking the mildew. In a metropolis the place there was as soon as a VFW corridor in each neighborhood, NOLA VFW Publish 8973 is the town’s final. As soon as virtually deserted, the publish is being revived by its Publish 9/11 membership, which can require a second department if it continues to develop.

“A big a part of what makes us distinctive is that our id as a VFW publish is carefully tied to New Orleans tradition,” says retired Marine and VFW Publish 8973 Commander Christopher Cox.

What additionally makes the publish distinctive is its youth; this power makes the publish one of many Nationwide VFW’s most lively. Membership has shortly grown from a handful of principally Vietnam period members to 318 women and men, almost all of them veterans of Desert Storm.

The altering face of the VFW

The publish was created by WWII and Korean Warfare veterans a long time in the past, however its mission of transitioning and veteran assist stays unchanged. It’s how they go about it that’s noteworthy. Laid-back is one option to describe the New Orleans publish. As an illustration, a scarcity of deployment whereas in service might not make you a de facto “veteran of a overseas warfare” however you’re nonetheless welcome to affix NOLA VFW.

There aren’t any garrison caps, few uniforms, and lots of the outdated fogey ceremonies and guidelines have been distributed with. As a substitute, members put on NOLA VFW ballcaps, t-shirts, and often cargo shorts. The publish is purposely fashionable and progressive in a method that solely New Orleanians could be — with out the fuss.

An excerpt from a latest e-mail to NOLA VFW members and buddies:

“For those who’re new to getting just a little soiled doing good works, I can say with absolute certainty it’ll enhance your perspective, provide you with some constructive reminiscences, and convey again that feeling of serving a goal higher than your self that all of us keep in mind. If you wish to assist out, ship me your t-shirt measurement earlier than the solar goes down tomorrow.”

Enjoyable guidelines which could flip off youthful veterans has created an open and cohesive membership keen to assist one another and have interaction in group service. Members could be discovered loading vans and delivering meals and medical provides after a storm or different catastrophe. That is one other space the place youth and power come into play. When NOLA VFW operates the restoration vans to disperse provides, it seems like a small battalion has arrived.

New Orleans VFW Post 8973 members at a crawfish boil on May 14, 2022. (Facebook/NOLA VFW Post 8973)

One younger former Marine who lives close by says he was curious when he noticed members engaged in what regarded like navy precision catastrophe aid. He approached the group, joined in to unload vans, and is now a member. His companion can be an everyday.

Cox says he acknowledges that veterans dwelling in different areas of the town are unaware of the as soon as small publish they usually might even be unaware the town even has a VFW. To this finish, the publish is increasing its outreach miles previous its boundaries. Cox’s purpose is that each one the town’s veterans perceive that NOLA VFW is their useful resource. In the event that they require transitioning help and assist, members are prepared to assist them entry VA well being care, advantages, and different companies earned whereas in service. This consists of constructing ramps for the disabled and home repairs.

In early Might, the publish was all the best way throughout city within the metropolis’s economically challenged Ninth Ward. After enlisting help from a community of native non-profits and companies, NOLA VFW spent the day on neighborhood cleanup and repainting a historic veteran-owned nook retailer pivotal to space. Afterwards, they helped serve meals — and loved a BBQ with residents.

The publish additionally hosts job gala’s, networking occasions, resume seminars, and PTSD outreach help. This month, the publish hosted a convention between the VA, the Louisiana Division of Veterans Affairs, and different group leaders strengthening the publish’s community of veteran particular initiatives, together with employment outreach via a veterans’ employment program.

“We’ve had casual success just by introducing transitioning service members to alternatives made obtainable just by networking,” says Cox. “One member who not too long ago used his GI Invoice and VA vocational rehabilitation to earn his Tulane legislation diploma was employed at a neighborhood legislation agency that method. One other member was employed as an armorer at a neighborhood gun store.”

So fashionable is NOLA VFW that younger Marines and sailors from Marine Forces Reserve and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans have proven as much as be a part of or take part in actions. Lively obligation service members who wish to be a part of or volunteer on group service initiatives or be a part of a crawfish boil are free to stroll via the door anytime. It’s a provided that the publish welcomes LGBTQ. In addition they welcome veteran’s spouses and companions.

The publish hosts ‘First Friday for Girls Warriors’ a month-to-month open home for all girls veterans or feminine relations and companions of veterans.

New Orleans Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8973 walking in a parade in March 2022. (Facebook/NOLA VFW Post 8973)

NOLA VFW membership additionally consists of marching full drive in camo kilts and serving to pull the keg through the metropolis’s St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras parades. Nonetheless, this yr, they’ve upped the ante. The publish is marching in its first Homosexual Pleasure Parade via the historic French Quarter — glitter kilts elective. However as members and most of New Orleans navy and veterans already take part in Pink Gown Run, Santa bar crawls, and a bunch of different native occasions, it feels natural.

“Our membership and management foster an setting that belongs to veterans of each gender, race, orientation, faith, and age,” mentioned Cox. “Maintaining the doorways open and answering calls when veterans need assistance or info is a big a part of what makes a profitable publish. We’re doing that.”

Cox encourages all veterans to return to NOLA VFW throughout its weekly open home on Thursday nights — membership and hats not required.

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