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History of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. The VFW trace our 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. 


In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations that would eventually band together and become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. Today, membership stands at more than 1.5 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary across the world.


The Cross of Malta is VFW’s emblem. The cross can trace its lineage back to the Crusades and the first brotherhood of warriors called the Knights of St. John. The knights represented all walks of life, but were united by a solemn pledge of unwavering courage and compassion. While they fought in numerous battles, they continued ministering to the sick, needy and poor.

Core Values of the VFW

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Legislative Impact of the VFW

The VFW voice was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, development of the National Cemetery System, in the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, the 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. Again, the VFW was the driving force behind the Veterans Access and Accountability Act of 2014, and continually fight for improved VA medical centers services for women veterans.


Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, in 2005, the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in November 2010. And in 2015, we became the first supporter of the National Desert Storm War Memorial which is planned for construction at our nation’s capital.


Most recently, and perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history, The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

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