Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars visits Durham
The commander-in-chief of Veterans of Foreign Wars is visiting 20 North Carolina VFW posts this week, and stopped in Durham on Wednesday at VFW Post 2740. VFW Commander-in-Chief William Thien was elected to the leadership role last summer. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving from 1969 to 1974, and five years in the Indiana National Guard, where he lives.
“This is where the work gets done – the post level,” Thien told VFW members from Durham and four other posts in the same district, who also attended. Post 2740 is the 87th post Thien has visited recently; he just toured several posts in Michigan. After North Carolina, he heads to Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day services at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, then resumes his post tour in Minnesota.
“In order for us to keep our lifeblood going, we’ll work to attract younger veterans and female veterans, because they are our future here,” Thien said before heading on to the next post. The visits are an opportunity to see the posts and good community service, he said.
Durham’s Post 2740 on Dearborn Drive is named for Harry Seeman, a U.S. Marine killed during World War II. Post members shared with Thien the kinds of activities and events they have throughout the year. Officers include active-duty veterans, as well.
Post member and trustee Larry Campbell talked about VFW’s interactions with local Boy Scouts, and now Girl Scouts, too. Scouts help veterans place flags at Oak Grove Memorial Gardens cemetery for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Brad Colburn, post quartermaster, is also in the National Guard. He said the post adopted his unit, welcomed them back from Iraq, and holds joint events each year.
Thien said VFW members who volunteer their time are priceless, and choose to be there because they believe in the VFW’s mission.
“We’re here to take care of the veterans and their families. That’s our job,” he said.
Thien also addressed the national news of several VA hospitals being accused of delaying medical care for veterans and hiding the delays. Thien told veterans that he was traveling when President Barack Obama spoke about it Wednesday, but understood there would be significant changes to the VA in coming weeks. It’s obviously a problem, he said. Obama said if the allegations prove true, it is dishonorable and disgraceful.
Thien said that veterans can call 800-VFW-1899 to tell the VFW about good and bad experiences at VA hospitals. The VFW has also started going in unannounced, too, he said.
“The vast, vast majority of VA workers are just caring, kind people,” he said.
Thien said the VFW hasn’t done a good job of telling people who they are and what they do. That’s changing, he said, with efforts like public service announcements by actor Lou Diamond Phillips. He also encouraged post members to check on members who have dropped their membership and get them back into the organization.
For information, visit www.vfw.org.