Wednesday, September 27, 2017

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville VFW turns 50

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville VFW Post 4548 will celebrate its 50th year on Thursday.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars post began meeting at Little Rock Air Force Base in an old decommissioned bunker. It was chartered in 1967.

The VFW post moved to a brick building across the street from its current building in 1981 across the street at 6704 Old Hwy. 67. It is open from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

It was later was renamed to honor Michael W. Ray, a Cabot soldier who died in May 1970 during his second tour in Vietnam. Ray was awarded the Bronze Star.

Jacksonville VFW Post commander Michael Ritchey said the VFW offers services to veterans, active duty military and their families. The Jacksonville VFW has 825 members of those 575 are lifetime members.

The post has a bar but has grown to be more family friendly with the addition of pond for fishing derbies, a pavilion for picnics and a smoke house for barbecues. It has dinners and live musicians.

The post has a VFW Auxiliary and a motorcycle riders group.

“They do a lot of outreach for our veterans and the community when needed on behalf of the VFW. We build wheelchair ramps for veterans. The auxiliary makes hospital visits, promotes local school scholarship programs and patriotism,” Ritchey said.

The VFW informs veterans of services and benefits. The state chairman lobbies legislation on VA benefits, improving the VA system and helping veterans with retirement tax exemptions.

The Jacksonville post has an annual Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens in the community. The motorcycle groups rides with the annual Toys for Tots ride.

“We do holiday baskets for those in need. We sell Buddy Poppies to raise money for disabled veterans,” Ritchey said.

The Jacksonville VFW also holds charity bingo games from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and from 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays. Ritchey said it helps provide income to support charitable donations in the community.

“We are looking for new veterans who served overseas. You don’t have to be an active member just being a dues card holder helps the VFW. They are a voice the state commander can lobby on behalf of,” Ritchey said.