Commander Don Vadenboncoeur thrives on veteran appreciation

Manistee VFW Commander Don Vadenboncoeur stresses the importance of civic duty and the VFW's involvement in Manistee County.

Manistee VFW Commander Don Vadenboncoeur stresses the importance of civic duty and the VFW’s involvement in Manistee County.

MANISTEE COUNTY – The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) records its initial advocacy back to 1899, linking itself to the veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection.

Founded under the pretense of securing rights and benefits for those returning home, wounded and sick alike, the organization and its membership has since expanded.

The official mission statement, provided by the Manistee VFW Post No. 4499, is as reads, “The purpose of this corporation shall be fraternal, patriotic, historical, charitable and educational: to preserve and strengthen comradeship among its members; to assist worthy comrades; to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead, and assist their widows and orphans; to maintain true allegiance to the Government of the United States of America, and fidelity to its Constitution and laws; to foster true patriotism; to maintain and extend the institutions of American freedom; and to preserve and defend the United States of America from all her enemies.”

Manistee VFW Commander Don Vadenboncoeur was enlisted in the army during the time of the Vietnam War and he earned his VFW-status with his presence at the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Vadenboncoeur sat with the Manistee News Advocate to discuss the agency’s role in the community, how it aids Manistee County veterans and their families and how the community returns the support.

MNA: What do you feel readers need to know about the VFW?

Vadenboncoeur: The VFW is a very impressive organization that supports the veterans. It also sponsors spouses, widows and children, if that ever comes about. We support them in many different ways, by providing service officers to render aid for those people that might require monetary or fiscal needs.

MNA: How can one become a VFW member?

VADENBONCOEUR: To become a member of the VFW, you have had had to serve in a war, or in an area that could have of been of imminent danger. It has to be approved by Congress. Now, other than that, we have two different organizations. In addition to post members, we have the Ladies’ Auxiliary and the Men’s Auxiliary. To join the Auxiliary, you have to have had a family member: a grandfather, father, brother, sister, etc., that was or was considered to be a VFW member.

MNA: What does the VFW do for the local, immediate community?

VADENBONCOEUR: We do a number of things for the community, as they do for us. Overall, we do what we can to support. We serve and represent through our service officers. We host fish fry’s, dinners and jam sessions at our hall. We helped Meals on Wheels by letting them use our facilities, after their’s was shut down. Also, we donate to charities and we walk in parades if requested. The Buddy Poppy drive that we do during the Fourth of July, that money we collect from there goes into a special fund for veterans that helps with emergency needs. For example, if they have a need for gasoline or buying prescriptions. Recently, we had someone who needed to have a tooth pulled and a dentist called us. It is an ongoing thing, and it is for emergency need only. Or if they are unemployed, we try to point them in the right direction.

MNA: Other than the poppy sales, how does the fundraising work exactly?

VADENBONCOEUR: The fundraising is done in a number of different ways, primarily with dues. Other than that, we have different fundraisers that we have through renting our hall out, which is our goal. That way, when we rent out the hall for either weddings or for other activities, we get a revenue. We generally have dinners and jam sessions. Recently, we just had two pool tournaments hosted here.

MNA: How often do the VFW members meet?

VADENBONCOEUR: We meet once a month at a required meeting. Both the post members and the auxiliary members meet once a month, they meet at different times.

MNA: I am assuming you yourself are a veteran?

VADENBONCOEUR: Yes, I was in the army around the time of Vietnam, but I was in Germany at the time of the building of the Berlin Wall. Congress considered my location to be one of imminent danger, which is how I was accepted into the VFW.

MNA: With the upcoming Fourth of July festivities and the community’s involvement with Tight Lines for Troops, what is the reception here at the VFW?

VADENBONCOEUR: We support them and we are thankful for them. We have both Post-Members and Auxiliary members that work at Tight Lines, serving food or registering. We try to serve the community as often as we can. We depend on the community to serve us in times in need, and they have.

MNA: Where can readers go to find more information?

VADENBONCOEUR: They can come here, we would be more than glad if they stopped by.

MNA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

VADENBONCOEUR: We would in particular would like to have younger members join. You might be a little scared coming in, but you come out as a friend. Our primary goal, we call it the “Order of the Day”, is to treat guests with the utmost respect and that, while they are here, they enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Manistee’s VFW Hall, 4499 Walsh Post, is located at 1211 E. 28 St. and the VFW can be contacted at (231)723-9220.

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