Community and Patriotism
Written by Karen Worcester, Executive Director (Volunteer)
As the Executive Director of Wreaths Across America, I am often asked to speak publicly and do interviews. I am always happy to oblige, sharing the mission to Remember, Honor and Teach is not just my job, it is my life’s-work, my passion.
One message that I often share may surprise you, however, I believe critical. It is with sincerity that I encourage our nearly two million volunteers to support and join existing veteran service and support organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW), American Legion and their Auxiliaries. There are many others, but for purpose of explanation I’ll focus on these two well-known groups.
These organizations have been carrying out all three of the directives of the WAA mission for many years.
My kids played Legion baseball and my high school participated in essay contests on patriotism. Though they didn't use the WAA mantra, they have carried out a like-minded mission since 1919. I love this description from their online history:
Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States.
Likewise, the VFW began in 1899 by Spanish -American War veterans. Their purpose in their own words is “…to speed rehabilitation of the nation’s disabled and needy veterans, assist veterans' widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans, and promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and by constructive service to local communities.”
My personal involvement with the VFW began with working with WAA’s first volunteer chairman of the board Capt. John Williams, who also, before his passing of cancer in 2010, achieved his goal to be the Maine State VFW Commander.
He shared the work of the VFW with me and although my WWII Navy Veteran Dad had already passed away, I was able to join the VFW Auxiliary through his service.
In this little community, like many across the country, numbers have dwindled. But it is still the VFW that always volunteers to serve community and veterans in need. When a veteran or their family falls on hard times the Captain John E Williams Memorial Post 11553 springs into action!
Many days my phone holds a message from the Auxiliary soliciting pie and casserole making for the fund-raising supper supporting community.
It is my firm belief that community breeds caring and love for Country and that is what fuels Patriotism.
Much has been written about young veterans not seeking membership in these longstanding organizations. I cannot begin to have the answer to that phenomenon. However, what I can do is encourage those who share the love for the WAA mission to include these groups and others like them in your programs.