October 5, 1993 will always be a date that brings pride and gratification to the members of VFW Post 6370. That was the date in which they became incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Florida, after having received their charter in 1992 as an officially recognized entity of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The organization was created in 1913-14 by the merger of three national-war veteran societies that were founded in 1899, shortly after the Spanish-American War. The American Veterans of Foreign Service, the Colorado Society of the Army of the Philippines and another society, also known as the American Veterans of Foreign Service merged to become the VFW.
There are three qualifiers for membership within the organization.
- Must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.
- Honorable Service. Must have served in the Armed Forces of the United States and either received a discharge of Honorable or General (Under Honorable Conditions) or be currently serving.
- Service in a war, campaign, expedition on foreign soil or in hostile waters. This can be proven by any of the following: An authorized campaign medal, receipt of Hostile Fire Pay or Imminent Danger Pay. An individual who saw service during the Korean Conflict for 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days.
For over a quarter of a century now men and women have been proud to have their own VFW Post here on Marco Island. However, effective June 1 that unfortunately came to an end, not only here on Marco Island, but around the nation as the organization has begun a process of consolidating smaller VFW Posts into larger ones, for what they say are “improved” efficiencies.
Post 6370 was informed earlier this year that they would have to either “merge” with the Golden Gate Post or face being disbanded. The 60 member post, which is proud to have 10 or more WWII veterans as part of their organization, chose to disband rather than put older members at risk, as they would be required to drive the 25-miles each way to attend evening meetings on a regular basis. At the height of their membership they boasted over 100 members, a number of them WWII or Korean War veterans.
“This was going to be just too much for many of our older members,” said Jim Lang, an active past commander of VFW Post 6370.
“Post 6370 has been an active part of this community and was a driving force behind the creation of the wonderful Veterans Memorial we have here on the island. We’ve also been involved in a number of civic projects, provided Color Guards for various parades and civic events. In addition, we’ve provided a source for the flags you see proudly flying around the island. That is something we will continue to do as we look to incorporate a separate group as a non-profit organization to continue in that role,” said Lang.
The weekend before the Memorial Day Ceremony you saw a number of their members and supporters out placing the small American flags along Collier Boulevard.
Post Commander Don Mills, who served as emcee at the May 28 Memorial Day Ceremony, was emotional when speaking about the decision by the State Commander that preceded the end of the existence of Post 6370. Mills is a 93-year-old veteran of WWII and a longtime resident of Marco Island.
“This is probably one of the saddest days of my life, as it is for our entire membership, but life isn’t fair sometimes,” said Mills.
“The one thing no one can take away from us is our pride in service to our nation. They can tell us not to wear our VFW hats with the Post 6370 logo on it, but we’ll always be connected with our fellow VFW members by our service to our nation.”
If you were to Google “VFW Post 6370” on the internet, it is as if the Post never existed. Last week they were required to turn in their Charter and all of their parade flags and ribbons. “It was really a sad day, it really wasn’t necessary” said Jim Lang.
A check with other high ranking VFW officials, who desired to remain anonymous, found that the decisions such as the one surrounding Post 6370 were not set in stone, but that discretion in these matters was provided to State Commanders.
Islanders may still continue to purchase flags by calling David Gardner, who has provided that service for many years as a member of the VFW and one of its past commanders. His number is 239-289-5862. Those proceeds will continue to go to providing assistance to veterans’ charities and supporting pride in national service.
All veterans are welcomed to join the American Legion Post 404. The location of meetings and applications for membership may be obtained by calling Post Commander Bill Horton at 239-202-0856.