By Annette Hinkle
The new commander of Sag Harbor’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082. He is the youngest veteran ever to have held the position and believes he’s the youngest VFW commander in the state. The 27-year-old Pierson grad was in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2009 and with a Military Occupational Specialty in infantry, served two combat tours in Iraq.
How has the VFW helped you as a veteran?
The benefit is having members who have been through some of the same experiences to talk with. The other members – not just from Afghanistan or Iraq, but Vietnam and Korean vets — maybe they didn’t go through the same type of combat, but they still have the same experience — the knowledge and the understanding of how it is to be in a stressful environment where it’s you against the world.
I joined the VFW because I wanted to have that sense of camaraderie. I also wanted to give back to the four years the government gave to me and to help other veterans in need.
What are some of the duties of post commander and what do you like about the job?
I like everything about it. It’s going to get me more involved in the town, bringing people in and make it how it used to be, when people had respect for the military and appreciated what we do. Our main goal is to ensure that every vet is cared for in maneuvering through the system. We help vets who are out and military members who are still in. For active members, we send a care package overseas, check up with them and keep a list of who’s active and who’s where.
How many members are there currently in the Sag Harbor VFW?
The Sag Harbor post has 49 members and two or three more that could be members — people who might be interested and don’t know what the VFW does. Besides caring for vets, people who are part of the VFW support immediate family members — giving care, giving them help.
And you represent the next generation of veterans.
I’m able to connect with vets my age – it’s almost like having a new face there. Previous commanders did an excellent job up to this point. I’m not trying to change anything about the VFW, but bring it up to the standard it should be and make sure it is respected and honored throughout the community. All veterans who are here — Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq — have physical wounds you can see or mental wounds you can’t, like PTSD, so I’m trying to make sure everyone gets recognition. It’s filling in the gap of what the village has been missing.
You mentioned two scholarship programs for students that you’ve introduced at Pierson. Can you explain those?
The two I’ve introduced to the schools are Voice of Democracy for grades 9 to 12 and Patriot’s Pen for grades 6 to 8. They’re scholarship programs — and the Voice of Democracy – if I had known about it I would have taken full advantage of it. A voice recording is made by students based on a question every year. This year it’s ‘Is the Constitution still relevant?’ Students submit that voice recording by November 1, then it goes to the post, the district and state. If they win state, it goes to the national level, and they can win an all expense paid trip to Washington DC for a week and a $30,000 scholarship.
The Patriots Pen deadline is November 1 as well. The question is ‘What would you tell the founding fathers?’ It’s a great opportunity to get involved in what patriotism is and what the constitution is and the fact we have military men and women committing themselves so people here can enjoy their freedom.
What would you like veterans who aren’t yet members of the VFW to know about the organization and the programs available?
The VA can help you. No one does more for veterans than the VFW. We are the largest non-profit organization to help veterans get their benefits, their entitlements and the service and the care they need. We’re here for any vet. They may not think they’re entitled to be in the VFW – but they can ask.
The only dumb question is the question not asked.