Now, they are fighting again, at home.
Veterans of Foreign Wars in Refugio and many other places are losing their posts because their support has dwindled.
Most people are unaware of the problem and take such organizations for granted, but veterans need these places to congregate with the people who truly understand: other veterans. Likewise, communities need their VFW posts.
The VFW posts in Goliad, Lolita and others have slipped away and no longer exist.
The Refugio VFW Post is hanging on, but it needs community support to continue.
Post Commander Ron Nelson and Richard Sanchez said that, unlike other VFW posts, Refugio’s post has opened its doors to the public. Most VFW posts prohibit anyone but veterans of foreign wars coming in their doors.
In Refugio, the public is invited to come in and enjoy the bar, the Internet jukebox, the games and the other amenities the VFW Hall offers.
“We need some outside help. People are not donating, not supporting like they used to,” Sanchez said.
The post has sponsored numerous fundraisers and dances, but attendance is not at the level it should be.
“I wound up paying for it,” Nelson said. “People don’t come out.”
One fundraiser that does draw people in is the annual VFW Good Friday fish fry.
“But they don’t come out for anything else,” Nelson added.
The VFW has sponsored chicken barbecue plates, several dances, a Super Bowl party (nine people showed up), hamburger fundraisers and another fish fry.
Nelson said veterans ended up paying for those functions “out of their pockets. We’re carrying the weight now.”
The VFW’s expenses have caused the burden: $800 to $850 electric bill per month; Internet service; water and gas – it all adds up to about $1,200 a month.
“If something breaks down, we’ll be out of luck,” Nelson said.
The VFW also has insurance costs of about $353 a month, VFW dues, and taxes to worry about.
Refugio VFW Post 6290 was organized on June 19, 1946. The post moved into its current home when the late Chato Bauer sold the building at 1102 Victoria Highway to the veterans. The veterans at that time paid cash.
“We used to have bingo. We were doing well until the game rooms came,” Sanchez said.
He noted that was when 80 to 100 people came to play. Now that number – when bingo is held – has dropped to 60, maybe 70.
“We have to sell $120 to break even,” Nelson said. “And that takes 85 to 95 people.”
When bingo was successful, the post added the bar and food for sale, but those things at the time were only open for the event.
Now, things have changed.
“The bar is open every night now. That is what is getting us by,” Sanchez said.
The bar opens at 5:30 p.m. on week nights and stays open to midnight if customers are in. On Saturday, the bar will stay open until 1 a.m.
Nelson and Sanchez said many of the old supporters of the VFW have died.
“And the oil field has quit donating to anything. If it is sports oriented, they jump on it, but when it comes to veterans, nothing.”
Nelson said the post has two young Army veterans, and there are 13 active members of the post.
“We used to have 25 to 30 members in the 1960s to the 1980s,” said Don Pullin.
The VFW will provide U.S. flags to schools and the county for buildings if anyone needs one.
The post also provides honor guards for funerals, dedications and parades.
And, of course, the VFW always plans an activity for Veterans Day.
The post also awards three scholarships for each school district in the county each semester. The scholarships are $500 each.
VFW members will travel to schools to give special presentations to students about what veterans are and what they do.
The VFW hosts the Patriot Pen for sixth through eighth graders –students write an essay, and the Voice of Democracy is a high school presentation that students record on a CD and are judged by VFW members.
Both of these VFW features result in scholarships.
“We need community support. It’s the only way we can survive,” Sanchez said.