The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans’ pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.
To address these problems, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations which would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW). After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000.
Since then, the VFW’s voice had been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, developing the national veteran’s cemetery system and advocating for compensation for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, VFW won a long-fought victory with the passing of a GI Bill for the 21st Century, giving expanded educational benefits to America’s active-duty service members, and members of the Guard and Reserves, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VFW also has fought for improving VA medical center facilities and services for women veterans. Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, the VFW in 2005 became the first veterans’ organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which was being constructed in Washington, D.C. The fundraising goal was reached in mid-2010, and ground for the memorial broken on November 10, 2010. The memorial was dedicated by then President Barack Obama on October 5, 2014.
In 2001, VFW unveiled its tribute to service and country with its dedication of Centennial Plaza. Annually, VFW members and its Auxiliary contribute more than 13 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week.
From providing $2.5 million in college scholarships to high school students every year, to encouraging elevation of the Veterans Administration, to the president’s cabinet, the VFW is there for our veterans.
The Department of Maine Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was established in 1921. Our first Department Commander was Edward E. Philbrook who served from 1921-1922.