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Help Middletown VFW post celebrate 50 years at Tuesday event

By David Barr, davidbarr@pressandjournal.com
Posted 3/15/17

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1620 in Middletown is commemorating its 50th anniversary March 21 with a small celebration, but the fact that the post is celebrating 50 years is anything but …

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Help Middletown VFW post celebrate 50 years at Tuesday event

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Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1620 in Middletown is commemorating its 50th anniversary March 21 with a small celebration, but the fact that the post is celebrating 50 years is anything but small.

The public is invited to the post at 200 Pike St. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21.

The post began in March 1967 with 100 members. They were members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the Air Force. The purpose of the post’s founding and installation was the same then as it is now: to honor the memory of the fallen, according to post commander Ricky Snyder Jr.

“We help all veterans,” Snyder said.

Nationally, the VFW of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. It traces its roots back to 1899, after the Spanish-American War.

Snyder graduated from Middletown and two years later enlisted in the Marine Corps. Snyder credits his upbringing at the Middletown Area School District as an athlete and his time spent with the Marines for the mantra “whatever it takes” that he uses with the post.

He became a Post 1620 member in 2011. Despite residing in Lebanon, he is now post commander.

There is a VFW post closer to his home, but he said since he has seen what Post 1620 has done during his tenure with the organization, he won’t leave the Middletown post.

Over the years, the post has gotten more involved with community activities such as sponsoring blood drives, National Night Out, helping install flags in cemeteries for Memorial Day, and hosting the Patriot’s Pen essay contest for school children.

Angela Childers, Post 1620’s quartermaster, said that the more the post does for the community, the more people know the post exists. This in turn can help with attracting new members.

“It’s built up to where we can really take care of the community and get involved,” Childers said.

The post has had to weather the loss of its World War II veterans, but as of March 8, they have 293 members, with 109 of those registered as life members.

According to Snyder and Childers, younger veterans who served more recently in the Middle East have joined the post in recent years.

Despite the gap in age between members, there’s a bond among post members that comes with having served in military, the kind that comes from being able to share experiences with one another and knowing the difficulties the other endured.

The post had to evolve to attract new, younger members. That meant adding amenities, such as wi-fi and a new nonsmoking room.

Butch Garber has seen the effects of those changes. Garber has been a member for nearly 50 years and has been an officer for the past eight years.

“We’re doing good. That’s what we like to see. It’s a great post for anybody,” Garber said.

Donnie Thompson hasn’t been around as long as Garber has, as he’s only been a member since 2007, but he served as commander from 2009 to 2014. He was invited to join by another member and the camaraderie of the members and the shared brotherhood and sisterhood of all those involved led him to stay associated with Post 1620.

“It’s a huge thing for the community,” Thompson said, because it is involved in many aspects of the area, from sponsoring baseball teams to various fundraisers to taking care of veterans and their families.

“We take pride in what we do to get out there with the folks,” Thompson said.

Plans for the golden anniversary are simple. Snyder said it’s going to consist of food, cake and camaraderie, which he described as the “foundation of what we do.”

Invitations for guest speakers have been extended to District 18 Commander Scott Fritz and Middletown Mayor James Curry III, although Snyder was unsure if they would be at the ceremony.

“We look forward to the next 50 years,” Childers said.

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