As one section of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) mission statement reads, the organization strives "To serve our veterans, the military, and our communities." At the local level, the VFW's focus on accomplishing such a charge has resulted in the merger of two posts.
Effective March 19, VFW Post 35 in St. Martins was dissolved and combined with VFW Post 1003 on East Capitol Avenue in Jefferson City.
With roots dating as far back as the Spanish-American War, the national VFW - with nearly 2 million members (including its auxiliaries) - donates more than 8.6 million volunteer hours annually.
"As the post members got older," said Vietnam veteran Tom Ward, commander of Post 1003, "many of our members and volunteers became less active."
Additionally, explains Ward, with the two posts being in such close proximity, there was often a "duplication of efforts" - such as with the annual "Buddy Poppy" drive, which helps raise funds for various VFW programs and services.
"We thought we'd be stronger as a single post ... more financially stable and better able to meet the needs of our local veterans and their families, said Rik Combs, a retired Air Force colonel and the final commander of Post 35.
With talks of the merger dating back nearly a year, Comb notes that although the history of the St. Martins post is only as recent as the late 1980s, the post's number has a much more profound historical connection.
"Post 35 was first located in Independence - it was Harry Truman's original post," Combs said. "It eventually went defunct and when the post was rechartered years later, the number was assigned to (the St. Martins) post."
Though Post 35 may have lost its numerical designation, the unification has brought a revision to the name of Post 1003, which seeks to honor the roots of both establishments.
The East Capitol post will now operate as Basinger/Sone Memorial Post 1003 - named in honor of the late Wyman Basinger, a Marine who served in World II and later became a long-serving Cole County sheriff, and Roy Sone, a Jefferson City Marine killed in action during the First World War.
The facility in St. Martins, Ward says, has become the property of Post 1003 and will be used as an event center where they can continue to host such activities as bingo, wedding receptions and fundraisers.
Ward added that the VFW welcomes potential new members and asserts that even if a veteran is unsure whether their military service qualifies for membership, they can contact Post 1003 at (573) 635-2341 to discuss the eligibility requirements.
For more information on the VFW, please visit their national website at www.vfw.org.
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.