SENIOR WRITER SUZANNE FREEMAN
Activity at the already busy VFW post in Marble Falls cranks up several notches during the holiday season. Along with serving two free holiday meals to veterans and their families, VFW Post #10376 also distributes bright red poppies in honor of Veterans Day, November 11, which this year lands on a Monday.
Post and Auxiliary members also take gifts to veterans in nursing homes during the holidays, stopping by to visit and pass on cheer.
“You are never forgotten,” said Evelyn Acosta-Cone, an Auxiliary member. “The VFW never forgets its people.”
Now 1.6 million members strong, including the Auxiliary, the Veterans of Foreign Wars was established in 1899 to serve combat veterans around the world. One of two posts in the Highland Lakes, #10376 has 422 total members, both veterans and Auxiliary. (The other post is VFW Post #6974 in Burnet).
To make sure no veteran goes hungry or is lonely on Thanksgiving or Christmas, the post serves turkey and all the trimmings at about 1 p.m. on each holiday. The potluck-style meals usually feed about 60 people.
Although it’s always Buddy Poppy season at the post, Veterans Day is one of two major poppy times for VFW posts; the other being Memorial Day. Since 1924, the organization has paid disabled veterans and veterans in need in VA hospitals to make the bright red, paper poppies given away each year in remembrance of the blood shed during World War I.
While the poppies are not sold, any donations given are used to help local veterans. The flowers “honor the dead by helping the living,” as per the VFW motto.
“We offer everything a veteran needs to carry them over for a short period of time,” said Post Commander Lloyd Crippen of how the money is used. “The money stays in this area. It goes nowhere else. We’re not the Red Cross, but we help with what we can.”
The post’s 291 members, along with 131 Auxiliary members, are also active in the community, visiting schools, raising money for scholarships, and supporting first responders year-round.
“For whatever emergency, we are there to provide whatever (first responders) need,” Crippen said. “They need clothing, we have a clothing drive. If they need cash, we raise money. We work with local stores like H-E-B and collect things like water, gather it up, and take it to where it’s needed. We were very busy during the flood last year.”
First responders are also honored with a free meal, this one on the Fourth of July. Kids get their own day in October, when the post hosts a free Octoberfest on its grounds.
VFW Post #10376 does not forget its fallen either. They hold a ceremony every Friday night to recognize local service members who died in conflict. Their photos hang on the Wall of Honor inside the canteen.
The entryway to the bingo hall pays honor to prisoners of war and those missing in action. They, too, are remembered in regular ceremonies.
Known as a vibrant organization locally, the Marble Falls VFW has been officially recognized statewide as the “Friendliest VFW Post” of the 325 in Texas. On the district level, it has been formally anointed as “The Oasis of District 14,” which includes 12 posts. It is a popular destination for district meetings.
Community fun includes bingo games every Wednesday and Sunday and karaoke on Fridays. The canteen is open seven days a week from noon to midnight. All activities are open to the general public, although it costs a one-time fee of $5 (good for life) to buy drinks at the bar.
And that’s not all. VFW and Auxiliary members work with VetRide and The Missing in America Project Veterans Recovery Program, which makes sure unclaimed cremains are buried with the proper ceremony. Their own programs include school events such as Patriot’s Pen, Teacher of the Year, Illustrate America, and Voice of Democracy. They also work with local Boy and Girl Scout troops and much, much more. Keeping a friendly and active post is just part of the job.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. When you walk in here, people greet you and make you feel at home,” Crippen said. “We’re proud of what we do here. When you walk in here, you know you’re in a VFW Hall. ”
Marble Falls VFW Post #10376 is located at 1001 Veterans Ave. at RR 1431. For more information, call 830-693-9374 or visit the post’s Facebook page @VFWPost10376.
Men and Women in VFW Auxiliary
In 2015, the word Ladies was dropped from the title of what is now called the VFW Auxiliary. With an amendment to the national bylaws, the organization became open to anyone related to veterans of foreign war, including men.
“My dad was a veteran of WWII and my brother served in Vietnam,” said Dan Cone, who is the conductor and legislative committee chairman for the auxiliary. “This is my way of giving back to the people who did serve and the many who sacrificed a lot.”
Being a member of the auxiliary carries as much weight and responsibility as being a VFW member, according to several active Marble Falls members.
“Our votes count as much as the veterans’ votes,” said member Rose Hansen. “We get things done in Washington where it matters. It’s an important mission.”
Passionate about her involvement, Judy LaGault has been in the auxiliary for 35 years.
“I appreciate and respect all our members who served,” she said. “Without them we wouldn’t be here. I’m just very grateful I get to be a part of this organization.”