PARIS/HARRISON — After turning 101 years old, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary – formerly known as the VFW Ladies Auxiliary – turned a new leaf on a new century by opening up membership to male relatives of female service members.
The historic move came July 20 at the VFW National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., where the veterans’ service organization officially dropped the word ‘Ladies’ in its name to the all encompassing auxiliary. The organization was founded in the same city in 1914, and officials at local VFW posts agree that it’s been a long time coming.
“Women comprise nearly 20 percent of the nation’s military and this change allows all spouses, fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons and brothers [16 and older] to serve others in honor of their veteran,” Cindy Moxcey, president of the VFW Auxiliary in Harrison said late last week. “We’ve talked about it for a few years. It does make sense.”
Paris VFW Commander Dane Tripp noted there’s currently 465,000 auxiliary members and the opening applies not only to the United States, but Germany, Guam and Panama.
“Numbers are expected to sharply increase over the next year,” he said. “That’s going to make quite an impact on the local communities around the globe.”
And it couldn’t come at a better time.
“We’re trying to do something with the youth – trying to encourage membership,” Paris VFW Auxiliary President Crystal McKay said. “It’s very hard. People aren’t exactly lining outside to join.”
The story is the same over the in the Friendly Village. Moxcey believes membership is low because of the commitment factor.
“Right now, I think a lot of our members are Vietnam age, but we don’t seem to reach the Gulf and the new wars. It’s a struggle. We don’t even know they’re out there most of the time in our communities,” she said. “We’re losing a lot of the World War II members rapidly. We’d like to reach them because we know they [and their families] have a lot of needs.”
Moxcey noted that men wanting to join the auxiliary isn’t an unheard of thing.
“We’ve had requests from men before but we weren’t able to take them. … There’s male members in the local communities who have mentioned it. They do have a Men’s Auxiliary but they’re separate and not very common,” she said, noting a year-and-a-half ago a widowed husband of a female service member wanted to become a member. “The VFW does some good work with the millions of dollars they raise for veterans services, plus the local organizations they support. And we’re shrinking so it’s good to get some support.”
While no males signed up to join the Paris auxiliary at its open house last week, McKay isn’t discouraged.
“We’re excited that we not only opened up to the lady veterans’ husbands … but they can bring their teenagers,” she said. “There would be so much excitement if we have volunteers to go up to the [Maine] Veterans’ Home [in Paris].”
This is where the Paris auxiliary does a lot of its volunteer work. It hosts Bingo every third Saturday at the home and this summer, two-by-four-foot flower beds were installed at the home.
“I have only been going since June and now I wouldn’t think of missing it,” McKay said about the monthly Bingo event. “We’ll do more next year at the Veterans’ Home for flowers. That was very rewarding. We did four of those in June.”
Moxcey noted that nationwide, $4.6 million was provided last year to veterans and active duty military and their families, and volunteers spent roughly 800,000 hours in Veteran Administration medical centers, hospitals and nursing and veterans’ homes.
Locally, the Harrison chapter works with other senior citizens groups, Scouting groups, puts on the annual Memorial Day Parade, supports Wreaths Across America and also provides the Ronald G. St. John Scholarship for students going into the medical field. St. John was a medic in Vietnam who graduated from Oxford Hills High School and wanted to come back and be a doctor, she said.
The Harrison VFW Auxiliary meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday on the month at the Ronald G. St. John VFW Post at 176 Waterford Road (Route 35). Anyone wishing to join should first contact Moxcey, at 381-7963, to fill out the paperwork.
The Paris VFW Auxiliary meets the first Wednesday of the month at the Floyd A. Harlow Jr. Post 9787 at 58 E. Main St. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. and the meeting follows at 7 p.m. Anyone wishing to join can call McKay at 577-7859.