In researching the 70-year history of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7234, Jerry Hardiman has discovered a theme of selflessness running though longtime members.
The VFW was founded in 1946, primarily by World War II veterans. It was an organized effort to answer the questions, “How can we help our veterans? How can we help people in need in the community?” Hardiman said.
“There’s a patriotism that runs through that, but it’s quiet,” he said. “This is like a commitment to the community, to the nation or country.”
“We do it for the veterans, and we do it to help people,” said Fulton Loppatto, post commander. “It’s really highly rewarding. Every day, you feel like you’re helping someone.”
The Ocean View VFW will honor that commitment at its 70th-anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m. Post 7234 is located at the end of Marshy Hope Way, off Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View.
The program will honor founding members, past leaders and more.
There will be a re-dedication of the VFW memorial, with a wreath-laying ceremony and Honor Guard presentation. Carnations will be provided to any guest wishing to lay a memorial flower in honor of a deceased loved-one.
Several of the original members are still living, and they’ll participate, too.
Afterward, everyone can come together for a free barbecue lunch.
The program includes a copy of the 1946 dedication. Commemorative pins will be available, and T-shirts will be sold.
Post 7234 opened in May of 1946, at a time when VFWs “blossomed” just after World War II, said Loppatto. The Mason-Dixon Post opened in Selbyville, with 92 members in a one-story trailer-style building. The Ladies Auxiliary (now simply called “the Auxiliary”) formed the following year. The Post moved to its present location on picturesque Quillen Point, overlooking the Indian River Bay, in 1953.
“I look back at some of the things I’ve inherited [as commander],” Loppatto said. “It’s really gratifying to add on to that history.”
But he cited the hard work of everyone involved, down to the VFW’s 1,320 individual members, with an Auxiliary of more than 700 members.
The VFW volunteers have always helped service members near and far, efforts for medical research, fire companies, school programs, with social work and much more. Money comes from dues, donations and fundraising events, such as the Saturday chicken shack, Sunday breakfast buffets, Auxiliary dinners and other events.
That legacy extends to the early days of Post 7234. In collecting World War II stories for a commemorative newsletter (to be published later this year), Hardiman described the mindset of the volunteers.
“What I was struck by was these people went in when they were all teenagers. They were all 17, 18, 19 years old when they joined,” said Hardiman.
One World War II veteran was 16 when the Navy rejected him for being too young. Undaunted, he did a year on a Merchant Marine refueling ship, came home and joined the Navy at 17, serving until the war’s end.
Another woman described life as a nurse in France, treating the influx of casualties from the Battle of the Bulge.
“They’re all from different backgrounds and different locations … and different branches of service,” Hardiman said. “And they all joined together to [create the VFW], without regard to what their military ranks had been, low or high. … They all had this kind of common sense of duty.”
Hardiman described a “great modesty” in the veterans, who are proud of their service but talk primarily about their units’ accomplishments.
“But when they came back, what I was struck by was their commitment to service. They could have come home and said, ‘Well, I’ve done my bit. Now I’m just gonna concentrate on my own life.’ They could have done that. They deserved to do that.”
Instead, he said, they came home, founded VFWs, joined volunteer fire companies, helped in the schools and much more. Volunteerism ran through their veins. There’s still a 92-year-old who works every weekend, fundraising at the VFW Post 7234 chicken shack.
“It’s a wonderful organization,” Hardiman said. “It’s become ever more so. Fulton’s just a wonderful leader for the organization. … He’s really expanded community involvement, public involvement. Come out! You’re more than welcome.”
“We’re looking forward to celebrating our anniversary and history, honoring those to whom we owe so much, and welcoming everyone to the Post on that special day,” Loppatto stated.