Veterans of Foreign Wars
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Chavez-Curran Post 2387 in Belen has plenty of tradition.
The post, started in April 1945, is named after Horace Chavez and John Curran, who were both war heros who served in World War II and the conflict in Vietnam.
Chavez was a World War II prisoner, who was one of 70,000-some prisoners of the Bataan Death March.
Curran was a helicopter pilot who was killed in Vietnam.
Now, a group of veterans want to continue to carry on the tradition that nearly 80 people have joined over the years.
“A lot of people don’t know about us,” said Gill Mullins, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, of the local VFW. “A lot of veterans don’t even know we exist.”
Mullins, who was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1973, is a part of the group who say they are committed to helping the community with donations to groups such as the Belen Area Food Pantry and Boy Scouts of America.
Members of Post 2387 also contribute to the New Mexico Boys Ranch and the Toys for Tots drive around Christmas time.
On Memorial Day, the group shows its patriotism by putting out hundreds of miniature American flags around Valencia County cemeteries to show appreciation for those who fought and died for their country.
The VFW organization is a congressionally-chartered group that has more than one million members, with more than 7,500 posts nationwide.
Members must be a U.S. citizen, who serve or served in the military service overseas.
Members say having the bond of a group has helped sooth the pain of post traumatic stress disorder through a camaraderie with people who know what it’s like to serve overseas.
Mullins said the group is “always looking” for new members, and he said local veterans can benefit from belonging to the group. The fraternity is a form of therapy for veterans, he said.
But it’s a fraternity where people have a common understanding.
“We don’t just sit here and tell war stories and drink beer like people think we do,” Mullins said.
The Vietnam veteran said he didn’t want anything to do with the organization when he first got out of the military in the early 1970s. He said he was bitter over his experiences overseas for six or seven years after he returned home.
In Vietnam, Mullins suffered a broken back and broken hip, along with multiple shrapnel wounds after his vehicle drove over a land mine charged with explosives.
He said he didn’t realize the organization could help treat some of his scars.
“The experiences in combat are hard for war veterans,” Mullins said. “I didn’t want anything to do with the organization.”
But Mullins said the group gives him a chance to continue the camaraderie that he had in the service. Mullins, along with others, say young war vets can benefit from belonging to the VFW organization.
Mullins said younger generations of those who served in foreign wars shouldn’t wait to join.
“It’s hard for young families to break away,” Mullins said. “But we try to convince them that now is the time to do it.”
He said members get the benefit of a $10,000 life insurance policy, and members also receive discounts on other things such as cell phone contracts, rental cars and hotels.
Members of the Belen group participate in events, such as Memorial Day and Flag Day festivities, and frequently give back in monetary donations to local community groups.
But more importantly, members share a bond that can’t be matched.
Veteran Charles Cox said veterans who may have come from different areas are tied to one another.
“It’s a coming together with guys who have had a common experience,” Cox said. “When I shake (a veteran’s hand) he has been there.”
Cox was another veteran who wasn’t so sure about joining the group after getting out of the military. He said he agreed to join following a conversation with Mullins about the benefits of the group.
Members say a lot of vets were treated like second-class citizens when they returned home from combat. He said joining the group makes it easier to relate to every day life.
“I talked with Gill and now, I’m here,” Cox said.
But Cox said that the organization is a normal group — not like those who force its members to try to recover from a certain illness.
“It’s not a psychiatric clinic,” Cox said. “It’s a place to be with the guys.”
The VFW, like similar groups around the area, want to expand to ensure their tradition will continue beyond today’s younger generations.
Mullins said the expansion of the group will solidify that tradition.
“It gives us the chance to continue the camaraderie of services.”
-- Email the author at email@example.com.