EVERETT — This year’s St. Patrick’s Day at Veterans of Foreign Wars Old Guard Post 2100 included historic exhibits, tributes to fallen comrades-in-arms, distribution of information on programs to support veterans and their families, and even an authentic Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage.
Unfortunately for the VFW, what the event didn’t have was precisely what it was intended to bring to the table, which was more veterans and their families, as well as more civilians whom the veterans would have been able to educate about the needs of America’s servicemen and women.
VFW Post 2100 State Service Officer Rene Taculad hails from Marysville and served in the U.S. Navy for 23 years, from 1966-89, taking him through what he deemed “the Vietnam years,” just shy of the first Persian Gulf war.
“We offer not only the camaraderie of veterans, but also help them to get the benefits they’re due,” said Taculad, before echoing concerns expressed by Post 2100 Cmdr. Donald Wischmann. “I wish more people had shown up today. Post 2100 has more than 800 members, but only a couple of hundred of those are active.”
“About 700 of [our members] are folks who served in World War II and Korea, and within about 10 years, we’re not going to be doing much as a post if we can’t replenish that membership,” Wischmann said, summing up the recruitment drive angle of the March 17 open house.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Juarez is so active that he started “Operation Desert Comfort” last October, after returning from Afghanistan that September, and he’s enlisted the aid of the Turning Point Church in Marysville in sending care packages to American military members serving overseas.
“I know the significance of those boxes and the happiness they can bring, from making you feel like you’re getting special treatment,” said Juarez, a hospital corpsman currently stationed at Naval Station Everett. “Even before I left Afghanistan, I was thinking about what I could do to help those I was leaving behind. My first shipment, I thought I’d be able to assemble five boxes, but it grew from word of mouth to 14, and they were all shipped on donated funds.”
Donors can make their checks payable to Turning Point Church “Operation Desert Comfort,” and Juarez may be reached by phone at 661-246-5846 or via email at email@example.com.
Bill Morse, community service officer of VFW Post 1561 in Arlington, shared Taculad’s disappointment in the event’s turnout, and agreed with Wischmann about the vital importance of the VFW to veterans.
“I’d particularly hoped to see more civilians here, because they need to see what we’re doing,” Morse said. “We honor our veterans when they pass away, but we also honor them when they need our help, by helping them as much as we possibly can, since the government is hardly doing anything for them at this point.”
“Without as many active members, we can’t have as much of a voice in Washington, D.C.,” Wischmann said.