MADEIRA BEACH – Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4256 is hosting a Pearl Harbor remembrance and open house Saturday, Dec. 7, 1 to 5 p.m., at 19029 Gulf Blvd. at John’s Pass Village.
Billy Wright, senior commander of the post, said plans call for a commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day with speakers and a ceremonial wreath that will be tossed to the sea. Afterward, all visitors are invited to a luncheon, tour of the post and the opportunity to talk to post members, as well as the ladies and men’s auxiliaries, staff from the Veterans Administration and a number of other groups.
Admission to the luncheon is a suggested donation of $8 per person. The Pearl Harbor open house also will feature karaoke with the popular Muffiaoke Show that starts at 7 p.m.
“Our main concern is helping veterans and their families, but to do that, we need more members,” Wright said. “Post 4256 has more than 800 members, but a great many of those are folks who served in World War II and Korea and now an older Vietnam era membership are dwindling, and within about 10 years, we’re not going to be doing much as a post if we can’t replenish that membership.”
Wright touted the VFW as a means of connecting service members both past and present with a number of useful resources, whether they’re deployed or retired. He noted that his post has even “adopted” a local Army medical company at the Reserve Center, and had dinners for them prior to and after coming back from their deployment in Afghanistan.
“We know people will be coming armed with questions about their VA benefits,” Wright said. “We know that our veterans are concerned about the amount of time it takes to get their claims processed and approved, along with the tremendous backlog, which is why we’ll have representatives of the VA here to answer those questions along with our own service officer here at the post who is an invaluable resource to our own members.”
Wright said he worries about the membership of the VFW because he wants to ensure that the group will retain a strong voice in Washington, D.C., to keep veterans’ concerns at the forefront of legislators’ priorities.
“I’m a Marine Corps veteran from the late ’70s,” said Wright, “At 52 years of age, I’m also one of the youngest members of this post. We simply need more youth to step into the breach and fill in some obvious gaps within our organization and it is incumbent upon our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to step up for their comrades and ensure that the organization continues its long and storied legacy of volunteerism, community service and assisting our fellow comrades in distress.”
Wright recognizes that certain stereotypes may exist in the public’s perception of VFW posts, but he assured veterans and civilians alike that VFW Post 4256 is active in the surrounding community, seeking out ways to benefit the barrier islands in addition to those who have served.