The Veterans of Foreign Wars also known as the VFW is America’s largest combat veterans service organization and has been around for more than 100 years.
The organization was founded in 1914 after veterans returned home from war with only their discharge papers and $15.60 in their pockets.
While they’ve spent years fighting for the rights of veterans, the public view of the organization hasn’t always matched the organization's purpose.
Denise Perry is the Maryland State Commander and says it’s all about perception.
“We need to change the way we perceive a VFW. Right now, a lot of people think there’s a bar in there and a bunch of old people sitting around smoking and drinking,” said Perry.
According to Perry, many VFW’s have gotten rid of their bars altogether. They have been replaced with a more family friendly environment that still offers camaraderie and opportunities to share experiences.
Beyond the opportunities to gather in their leisure time, the VFW has a legislative staff that lobbies representatives and senators to make sure lawmakers grant veterans the care, services, and programs they’ve earned.
One of the latest legislation comes as a result of more women like Commander Perry speaking up and speaking out on behalf of the needs of women veterans.
“When I joined the VFW, there were 1900 women and I think we’re up to 9000. Right now, we’re pushing a bill for women who have trauma, who have a baby in a VA hospital. They only gave you seven days where you would get childcare. We’re pushing for 42. that wasn’t even on the radar when I came in," said Perry.
There are nearly 1.7 million members of the VFW and growing.