VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS. The first Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Texas was instituted on June 26, 1917, in San Antonio. It was known as Fort Sam Houston Post No. 76 and was organized by Arthur W. Pigott, "father of the VFW in Texas." Pigott joined the VFW in 1913 while on duty in San Francisco, California; after he transferred to Fort Sam Houston in 1916, he requested permission to organize a post there. The post, with some twenty charter members, was short-lived, for with the beginning of World War I every member of the post went to war, a distinction that few other VFW posts could claim. The Department of Texas, Veterans of Foreign Wars, was officially founded on April 21, 1921, when a charter was issued by the national headquarters of the organization. At the time of chartering, Texas had five VFW posts. They were Fort Sam Houston Post No. 76, San Antonio; Dallas Post No. 156, Dallas; Herbert D. Dunlavy Post No. 581, Houston; Camp Bowie Post No.708, Fort Worth; and Buddy Moore Post No. 688, Palestine. During the early years of the Department of Texas organization, membership ranged from a low of 221 to a high of 969 at the end of the first administration. Department of Texas General Order No. 1 was issued on May 1, 1921, establishing temporary department headquarters in Houston. In the same directive R. H. McLeod of Houston was recorded as having been duly elected and installed as department commander. The first new post organized within the Department of Texas was Davis-Seamon Post No. 812 in El Paso, mustered on July 25, 1921. Organization of other units followed. On July 15, 1921, the territory of the Department of Texas was enlarged by the admission of the state of Louisiana. The designation then was changed to the Department of Texas-Louisiana, and this additional territory increased the membership of the department by thirty-three, all members of Crescent City Post No. 351 in New Orleans. Later the New Orleans post withdrew from the department, and this action permitted the department to revert back to its original name.
Membership in the VFW is limited to veterans who served overseas in time of war or national emergency and had been awarded a decoration, ribbon, or occupation medal. The department's annual programs provide recognition for outstanding achievements by posts in all activities. An important part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Texas is the Ladies' Auxiliary, which also has districts corresponding to the VFW districts. Though chartered as a fraternal organization, the VFW and its Ladies' Auxiliary continue to be the leading spokesmen for veterans' issues. The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States has been instrumental in the passage of all veterans' legislation concerning Texas veterans since 1921. The objectives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars are fraternal, patriotic, historical, and educational. The motto is "Honor the Dead by Helping the Living." Thus the VFW not only helps to protect veterans' entitlements but, as an organization, it works within the community through various service programs, Americanism programs, and safety programs. In the early 1990s more than $3.5 million was donated annually to local communities. In addition, some $300,000 in scholarships was given to students. The Department of Texas produced one national commander in chief, Ted C. Connell of Killeen, who served during 1960–61. Another Texan and past department commander, Julian Dickenson, held the key administrative office in the national organization in 1974. He was first appointed to that office in 1950; known as the adjutant general, Dickenson directed the national headquarters staff in Kansas City, Missouri. The official publication of the department was the Texas VFW News, a tabloid newspaper published monthly except August. It began publication in February 1947 with Bruce M. Francis as its first editor. The permanent headquarters of the department has been in Austin since August 1946. In 1974 the Department of Texas consisted of twenty-eight districts with 421 active posts. Each district elected a commander, who, with other elected and appointed statewide officers, made up a council of administration which governed the finances and assets of the Department of Texas. A state convention was held each year at a designated city, and department officers were elected at that time; a midyear meeting was convened for the purpose of midyear reports. By 1993 the membership of the VFW in Texas had grown to approximately 121,000 in 535 posts, making it the largest veterans' organization in the state.