HJ/EDHerald Journal, Jan. 16, 2006

Wright County VFW: honoring the dead, helping the living

By Jenni Sebora

The Wright County VFW Post 1901 in Montrose is dedicated to honoring the dead by helping the living.

Comprised of approximately 100 members, the Wright County VFW meets in Montrose to serve its country by helping out its communities, Post 1901 Commander Heinz Heck noted.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization was chartered by congress in 1936, and is committed to ensuring rights, remembering sacrifices, promoting patriotism, and performing community services – a goal the Wright County VFW takes to heart.

Heck, who was a member of the Delano VFW, noted that about five years ago, the Delano club merged with the Wright County VFW in Montrose.

Although there are about 100 members who pay their dues to the VFW, there are only about five members who attend the meetings, so it made sense for the two clubs to merge, Heck noted.

And presently, the Wright County VFW is in the midst of changing its post home, having sold the VFW in Montrose in 2004 and purchasing the nearby former telephone company building at 255 Third Street in Montrose.

The future home of Post 1901 is waiting for sewer and water hook-up and other work and when complete, will be used solely as the post home for the VFW.

The goal is to have the building ready to go by the start of the summer, Heck noted.

“There will be no alcohol served to the public. It will just be for post members and nothing for the public,” Heck said of the new post home.

With the sale of the VFW in Montrose, the VFW club was able to donate a few thousand dollars to the local Cub Scouts.

The VFW also donates to the local Girl Scout troops and other charitable organizations, and with the VFW auxiliary, conducts a Memorial Day service at the park in Montrose.

“We have a wonderful Memorial Day program with a speaker at the park in Montrose. We put out flags and crosses to honor the deceased veterans, and the Girl and/or Boy Scouts place wreaths on the crosses,” Unit 1901 Auxiliary President Cecilia Schmitz said.

Coffee, juice, and donuts are served after the Memorial Day program, as well.

“We usually serve about 100 to 150 people, depending on the weather,” Schmitz said.

Besides money raised from members’ dues, the Post also holds different fundraisers, including omelet breakfasts and bingo at the Wright County Fair, to raise money for its various donations.

VFW members and its auxiliary annually contribute more than 13 million volunteer hours in the community, according to the website www.vfw.org.

And according to the website, the accomplishments of the VFW organization are many, including lobbying for a GI bill for the 20th century; fighting for compensation to veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome; donating more than $1 million each to the Vietnam, Korean, women in the service, and World War II memorials; and improving VA medical centers services for women veterans.

“There is a common bond that exists between the men and women who have shared the military experience in battle: a shared sense of duty and a common belief in a cause higher than self. VFW members are here because they understand the true essence of America and its ideals and beliefs and the price they paid to be eligible to join the ranks of the VFW,” according to the auxiliary.

“I am a proud veteran who gained an education from serving. I’d do it again,” Heck said, who served in Vietnam in 1968.

Membership eligibility is limited to those serving honorably in the U.S. armed forces in a foreign war or overseas operation recognized by a campaign medal, in Korea after June 30, 1949, and recipients of hostile-fire or imminent danger pay. Veterans of World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Afghanistan and other smaller expeditionary campaigns, as well as occupation duty, qualify.

Auxiliary Unit 1901

Auxiliary Unit 1901 in Montrose is there to serve its veterans and communities. Founded in 1914 as a national volunteer service organization, the ladies auxiliary of the VFW is the backbone of many local VFW volunteer efforts.

Comprised of approximately 105 members from across the country, the auxiliary meets monthly to complete various service projects, such as sewing lap robes and quilts for people who are ill, sending Christmas cards and money donations to senior citizens and shut-ins in the surrounding areas, helping the local Lioness Club with the children’s Halloween party, as well as donating items and money to other charity organizations and clubs.

“We have members from such states as California who send in their dues, but we usually have between eight to 20 members who attend the meetings, and we are always looking for new members,” president Cecilia Schmitz said, noting that the average age of a member is 75 to 80 years old with one member being 97 years old.

The club raises most of its money for donation from membership dues. However, it also holds other fundraisers including bingo at the Wright County Fair, in conjunction with the VFW, selling poppies on Poppy Day, and has, in the past, hosted pancake breakfasts, Schmitz noted.

Donating $100 phone cards to the VA center in Minneapolis and preparing a supper each fall at the community center in Montrose for veterans from the VA hospital in St. Cloud and donating items, such as toiletries and clothes to the veterans are among some of the service projects the club engages in.

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