Enumclaw’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1949 turned 90 last weekend, just in time to celebrate Veterans Day this week.
The VFW Post was chartered on Nov. 8, 1930, The Courier-Herald chronicled.
“A. J. Chitty, Shelton publisher, department chief of staff, is expected to be here to conduct the installation on behalf of the state organization,” a Nov, 7, 1930 article reads. “A Seattle drill team will be present and assist the installation. Tacoma’s post is sending a drum and bugle corps and plenty of peppy music is promised throughout the evening.”
The charter members of the post included H. F. Hastings, commander; Ben Pettinger, senior vice-commander; Ed Bandli, junior vice commander; Harry Nelson, quartermaster; Louis Podkranic, officer of the day; H. V. Bell, surgeon; and Karl Sonntag, chaplain. The trustees inducted were Charles Runland, Clair A. Wilder and J. F. Haines.
However, the Post building at 244th Ave. wasn’t built until thirty years later — members were meeting at the Danish Hall until they had their own digs.
“The new building is of Pan Abode construction… VFW work parties during the past several months have done much of the work on the building, including splitting and installing shakes on the roof, pouring concrete, and shaping up the parking area,” an April 25, 1963 Courier-Herald article reads.
Not mentioned, however, is how the Post afforded their new home.
“Some of them put a second mortgage on their homes, a second mortgage on their farms,” said Tom Krueger, who served as post commander for two years, up until recently. “That’s always impressed me.”
One of the Post’s crowning achievements was the installation of the Veterans Memorial on the corner of state Route 410 and Monroe Avenue. An older memorial was dedicated 11 years prior to the day, but had since fallen into disrepair, necessitating a newer monument.
The groundbreaking of the project was — of course — Independence Day, 1996, and was dedicated May 26, 1997. The 20-foot-tall memorial, complete with at least 72 names of veterans killed in action, cost around $40,000 to complete.
The Post created another monument at Veterans Memorial Park in 2008, this time for Army aviators James Whitehead, Patrick Paige, and Thomas Clarkston, who died in a helicopter crash on Enumclaw’s Mt. Peak two years prior.
THE VFW TODAY
VFW Post 1949 is currently headed by Vincent Fischetti, who took over the job of post commander from Krueger about a month ago.
According to Fischetti, the Post has somewhere around 200 members, though only about 10 percent of them are active in meetings, which are held the second and fourth Thursdays of the month.
Although many of the Post’s services are geared toward veterans, there are myriad services that are offered to the public as a whole. This includes lending the hall for free to the local Boy Scout troops, the Enumclaw Garden Club, the Plateau Quilters, and general memorial services.
For veterans, the Post has an Honor Guard that provides military honors for deceased veterans, both at local cemeteries and at the Tahoma National Cemetery; assists veterans and their families in filing for or retaining Veterans Affairs disability claims; and in general, helps out veterans in need of a financial pick-me-up.
For example, Fischetti said, the Post helped a veteran who ran into car trouble when he was moving.
“He wasn’t our member, but he was a VFW member, and we helped him out,” Fischetti said. “We gave him, I don’t know, $1,500 — he had a breakdown on the road, we helped him get assistance and get him going.”
Money donated to the Post, Fischetti continued, “goes right back to the community,” including being invested in Plateau Outreach Ministries and the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation.
POPPY DRIVE AND FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY
Twice a year, VFW Post 1949 hosts a poppy drive — one around Veterans Day, and the other around Memorial Day.
Typically, Fischetti said, these drives bring in around $10,000 each, which helps the VFW keep its lights on in a major way, since monthly expenses typically fall around $2,200 or $2,500 a month.
However, COVID-19 is preventing veterans from stationing themselves outside the local QFC and Safeway this year; in their place will be a poster board and a donation box.
Fischetti said that last year, only about $1,100 was raised, which is putting the Post in a difficult financial position.
“Our donations are down 90 percent due to COVID-19 virus. I am very sorry to report that we are having trouble maintaining our Lodge. Without financial support we may be forced to sell the post Lodge,” Fischetti said in an Oct. 21 article with the Courier-Herald.
“We know you have been asked to help in many ways these past months, so any donation is greatly appreciated,” Fischetti continued. “Please help us meet these challenges for the community.”
The donation boxes outside QFC and Safeway were available to the public Nov. 5 through 8. If you missed your opportunity, you can mail donations to VFW Post 1949 by sending a check to: VFW Post 1949, P.O. Box 14, Enumclaw, WA 98022.