As Brainerd area servicemen and women return from Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and other volatile or hostile areas of the world, there is a place waiting to welcome them home.
For 75 years, Brainerd VFW Post No. 1647 has been a supportive environment not only for war veterans since World War I but for the community as well.
The post celebrated its 75th year of service with a Hawaiian-themed banquet Friday. In addition, past state VFW commander Al Loehr, who is the former St. Cloud mayor and present national Legislative committee vice chair, presented the post with the Diamond Jubilee award for its 75th year anniversary, which was March 23.
Post Commander Archie Katchie said like many veterans organizations, the VFW had been experiencing a decline in membership. But now that younger soldiers are returning home as veterans, membership is growing. Katchie said so far this year the Brainerd VFW has gained about 35 new members for a total of about 625 members. Most are young veterans but a few are Vietnam veterans.
"We just want them to come home and be welcomed," said Katchie. "If I see a new vet, I start a conversation with them right away. We want to get younger veterans involved with us, especially those who are serving in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and places like that."
The Brainerd post last year donated about $15,000 within the community, mostly from its gambling funds. The post also support veterans through their Poppy Day sales. VFW members volunteer for a variety of community services, including honoring veterans at their funerals as members of the VFW Post No. 1647 Color Guard. Last year Katchie said the color guard attended about 25 funerals. They also march in parades and attend other community events.
Katchie will step down as post commander in June when Dan David, the new post commander, takes his place.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, along with its auxiliaries, have about 2.6 million members and about 9,000 posts worldwide.
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