OLDSMAR — The road to installing Oldsmar’s first VFW post has been long and bumpy one. It began more than a year ago with meetings in the back of a local bar and lately has been full of obstacles related to the coronavirus pandemic.

But despite facing an uphill battle, VFW Post 12186 became an official entity last month as the post’s officers, including Cmdr. David Bear and members of its auxiliary unit convened at Veterans Memorial Park for the installation ceremony May 28.

The brief service, which was held under gray skies utilizing social distancing guidelines, marked the much-anticipated addition of a VFW post in the Purple Heart community that’s supported veteran causes for many years.

“This was over a year in the making and it’s been a little bit of a rough road,” Bear said before the start of the ceremony. “But the entire process has been nothing but positive. The only negative is we haven’t been able to get into the public eye, in schools and hosting fundraisers, like we want to because of COVID-19. But overall everything has been fantastic.”

The installation process actually began six days earlier when members of the post’s auxiliary unit gathered at VFW Post 7987 in New Port Richey on May 23 for their installation ceremony.

Oldsmar Vice Mayor Linda Norris, who was named president of the auxiliary, said the day was a long time coming.

“It’s taken many years to get this done,” Norris said. “And now it’s done and we’re very, very proud.”

According to Bear, the unit, which is comprised of military spouses and supporters and was formerly known as the ladies auxiliary, serves an integral role in a post’s operations. “We’re a team and we do everything as a team,” he said, adding “there is no Post 12186 without the auxiliary.”

Indeed, according to Danny Anderson, the state VFW’s immediate past commander who conducted the Oldsmar ceremony.

“To have an auxiliary unit installed in the first year is outstanding,” Anderson said. “So, they’re doing a great job and have really come on strong from the start.”

After the short ceremony concluded, Bear led the group back to Jack Willie’s, where they have been meeting since April 2019.

With the installation in the rear view, he said they would now concentrate on two priorities: recruiting new members and finding a permanent location for the post.

“We’re currently looking for a building,” Bear said, noting they might ask the city if there is any space available to use, at least on a temporary basis. “Then, we can start our fundraising and recruiting drives because we haven’t been able to do that due to COVID-19 and a lack of space. Jack Willie’s has been great to us. But we need to find a more permanent home base.”

Asked how he felt after more than a year of working toward his goal of bringing a VFW post to Oldsmar, Bear replied, “Tired! But I’m super grateful. To pull this off during a pandemic proves that Oldsmar was the right place for this post.”

For more information on Oldsmar VFW Post 12186 and its auxiliary unit, visit vfw12186.org.