The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) dates back to 1899, organized to help veterans of the Spanish–American War and the Philippine Insurrection. Elwood’s first VFW post, No. 1421 – The Tinplate Post – formed in February 1926. But in 1932, it became the Harry E. Meade Post, honoring an Elwood soldier killed in action in Europe on Nov. 11, 1918, Armistice Day. The post reorganized in 1976 under the name, Elwood VFW Memorial Post 5782.
Today, Joe Miller is the post commander and one of its most ardent supporters.
“Primarily, the VFW represents the interests of vets to our government,” Joe said. “But the number one thing we do locally is the funeral detail.”
When a veteran dies, regardless of whether the vet is a VFW member, the detail pays last respects, executes the firing squad at the grave site and performs a ceremonial presentation of the flag.
“It’s touching for the family,” he said, “a benefit for the vet, and it makes you feel good to do it.”
VFW membership is open only to veterans who served in the United States armed forces in a combat theater in a foreign country. The Elwood post has a membership of around 200 veterans. It also has about 150 auxiliary members, who have a close relative who served in combat. Post members include veterans of Desert Storm, Vietnam and Korean War veterans, and even a few who fought in World War II.
“One of our World War II vet is Gene Smith, who’s 96,” Joe said, then added with a chuckle, “and one of our better pool players.”
In addition to taking part in the many social activities offered at the post, members work together to offer meals, raising funds, and hosting events that benefit the Elwood community. For example, the post offers meals from 4:30 to 6:30 every Tuesday evening meals, and the public is invited.
“It’s only $4, and for that you get a full dinner like meatloaf, tenderloin, or chicken strips,” Joe said. “You can’t beat it for $4.”
The post also serves grilled steak and baked potato dinners for $10 on Friday evenings. As soon as the post gets its new broaster up and running, it’ll be serving broasted chicken dinners.
“If you’ve ever had broasted chicken,” he said, “you know it’s awesome.”
Each year, the post provides meals for the Elwood High School football team. This year, it’s doing the same for the volleyball team. Recently, the post hosted a steak dinner for the Elwood High School band and raised $1,300. Just last week, the post hosted a fundraiser that benefited Elwood’s Cindy Klein, who is competing in this year’s Miss Indiana Teen contest.
Another event, held one afternoon about a month ago for the residents of the Marion veteran’s home, really touched Joe’s heart.
“We brought the vets here,” he said. “They played bingo, and we served snacks and soft drinks. Lots of them took home prizes, and we gave them hats and T-shirts. It was really nice to see the smiles on their faces.”
The post also offers plenty of activities, such as bingo every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon, and the public is welcome to participate. Member-only activities include shuffleboard on Monday evenings, euchre one night a week, and frequent pool tournaments.
“Camaraderie is the main thing,” Joe said. “The VFW post is a place for vets to go to have a home away from home. Although our members are getting older, we want younger vets and their families to get involved.”
To encourage more families to participate in the VFW-sponsored events, the post has designated its banquet room as a non-smoking area. Joe would like to make the entire post appealing to young families. The banquet hall also is available to outside groups for a rental fee of $150, with limited access to the kitchen.
Joe served in the U.S. Air Force from 1974 to 1994. During 12 of those years, he lived in England, where he met and married his wife, Jane. He served during Desert Storm, when he was sent to Saudi Arabia to support F111F fighter bomber missions. Joe was elected Post Commander in May of 2016. Other officers include senior and junior vice commanders, the quartermaster, a chaplain, and a house committee that runs the canteen. Annual elections are in May.
The post always welcomes new members and urges veterans from the Elwood area to stop in and say hello. Meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month. Dues are $30 annually and entitle members to full access of the VFW’s network of resources, assistance securing the benefits they’ve earned, and access to the post facility.
The post, located at 317 South 18th Street, is open Monday through Saturday from noon until closing, usually around 9:00 p.m.; and noon to 4:00 on Sundays to watch the NFL games.
For more information about the Elwood VFW Post 5782, please call 552-9154.
Top left: Elwood’s VFW Commander Joe Miller, right, is accompanied by Elwood Chamber Director Marcy Fry, Quartermaster Gene Gipson and Gene Gillman, House Committee, three-year. Top right: Elwood’s VFW Commander Joe Miller stands at the podium in the Post's meeting room. Bottom left: Elwood’s VFW Commander Joe Miller is always ready to greet visitors to the post on South 18th Street. Bottom right: Elwood's VFW Post 5782 is located at 317 South 18th Street. (Click on photos to enlarge.)