Many men and women who have served their nation as members of the military have organizations they can join where they find camaraderie, support and benefits resulting from their service.
Among those organizations are Veterans of Foreign War, American Legion, Korean War Veterans Association and Vietnam Veterans of America.
VFW, according to its website, traces its roots “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” after arriving home wounded or sick and finding no medical care or veterans pensions.
VFW takes credit for helping establish the Veterans Administration, creating the GI Bill, developing the national cemetery system and fighting for compensation for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and veterans diagnosed with Gulf War syndrome.
Membership is open to those who served in conflicts from World War II to today.
The American Legion, according to its website, “was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness” and is “the nation’s largest veterans service organization.”
It promotes mentoring and sponsorship of community activities and programs and its nearly 3 million members, men and women, include veterans and active-duty service members in 15,000 posts worldwide.
Its membership requirements allow for those on active duty or who have served honorably during certain dates of certain war eras ranging from World War I to today in what is described as the “Gulf War-War on Terrorism.”
The Korean War Veterans Association is open to all veterans who served in Korea since 1945 through today, and the Vietnam Veterans of America, which was founded in 1978, promotes and supports “the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans” and works to “create a new identity for this generation of veterans and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans,” according to its website.
There are others who have served their country, not in times of conflict and perhaps not abroad and, every once in a while, someone asks the question: What about me? What about them?
That’s the case for Gary Noyes of Orono, a “Cold War” veteran who was a hospital corpsman with the U.S. Navy from 1975 to 1979, serving in such places as Iceland, the Mediterranean and stateside.
When his military service ended, he said, he was “interested in joining a veterans organization” but his dates didn’t quite match membership requirements for military service organizations with which he was familiar.
Gary entered the military “five months after the cutoff for Vietnam” and, when he left the military, “it was six months before Iran,” making him ineligible to join either the American Legion or the VFW.
Eventually he heard about AMVETS, which he joined in 2000, and it is about AMVETS that he wants to spread the word.
After attending the Veterans Day parade in Bangor, Gary was watching television coverage of that event and saw an interview with a Cold War veteran who expressed disappointment that there was no veterans group available for them.
That’s when Gary decided to drop me a note because, he wrote, “I sympathize with them and would be grateful if you could put in one of your columns a notice about AMVETS, which is an organization that they could join.”
Gary included a flier about AMVETS that discusses its history and an explanation of its mission.
“Anyone who has served in the military is considered a veteran,” Gary explained, and AMVETS is open to both men and women “and we take members of the Merchant Marine and the Coast Guard as well,” he added.
AMVETS, originally known as American Veterans of World War II, had its beginnings in the mid-1940s and received its federal charter in 1947, which was amended in 1966 to redefine eligibility dates for AMVET membership.
Membership is open to “any person who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America or any American citizen who served in the armed forces of an allied nation of the United States on or after Sept. 16, 1940, and on or before the date of cessation of hostilities as determined by the government of the United States is eligible for regular membership in AMVETS, provided such service, when terminated by discharge or release from active be honorable discharge or separation.”
Gary serves as the adjutant, or secretary, finance and membership officer for AMVETS Post 9, which meets at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at the American Legion Hall, 75 Water St. in Old Town.
“We are a small post,” he said, “but we would like to increase our numbers.”
And while the membership is 114, Gary said, “we usually get six or seven at a meeting,” which he attributes to there being “so many other things for young military veterans to do” with their families these days.
However, just hearing one veteran wonder, out loud, what organizations are available to those who served during peacetime, or what some of us remember as the “Cold War era,” was reason enough for Gary to write me to encourage those people to consider AMVETS.
He would love to hear from any veteran looking to come in out of the cold, so to speak, and find a home with fellow servicemen and servicewomen.
If you would like more information about AMVETS, you are encouraged to write AMVETS Post 9, c/o Gary Noyes, 79 Havasu Road, Orono 04473, or call him at 866-2577.
For information, you can visit www.amvets.org.