The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8213 is gone, but its spirit will soldier on, says past Commander Tim McArdle.
The Post, launched in 1994, was officially disbanded on Wednesday, June 5, when its charter was turned over to the Department of New York VFW.
The military service organization in Somers had been valiantly battling dwindling ranks for a number of years.
At its peak, membership hovered around 65; at the end, about 40 vets, mostly from the Korean War era, remained.
The low numbers were mostly due to older members’ passing away, being unable to fully participate, becoming full-time caretakers for ailing spouses, or simply retiring to warmer climates. And attempts to recruit eligible, younger vets didn’t “pan out,” according to McArdle, who served in the U.S. Air Force during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He attributed the latter to factors such as the high cost of living in northern Westchester and of buying a home in Somers. Such folks are more likely to have less time and energy for things outside of work and family duties, he added.
In the past, some folks had suggested that the lack of a physical place to hold events or hang out with comrades, family, and friends might have been problematic. But McArdle said recently he didn’t think that was the case.
The organization’s chief mission was community service and not socializing, he explained.
And that is why, McArdle said, he is confident that its good works will go on.
Other local heroes are taking up the flag, so to speak.
The Veteran’s Day Parade will be overseen by the Somers Lions Club, a 53-year-old all-volunteer organization with four pillars of service: local families in need, diabetes, pediatric health, and vision.
Members of the Somers Volunteers Fire Department Association will take over Memorial Day Parade duties. And local Boy Scouts will handle the disposal, or proper retiring, of worn-out American flags.
McArdle said he and past Quartermaster John Sullivan–with the help of Somers Middle School teacher Edward Mullaney–intend to continue the Patriots Pen, an essay contest for middle school students.
McArdle will still also teach local first-graders about Old Glory and how to properly fold and display it.
Vets who wish to remain active have an alternative, McArdle said.
There are Posts in nearby Putnam County: Brewster and Mahopac which are accepting new members.
McArdle plans to join the Mahopac Post.
CARRYING THE BANNER
The Post’s demise leaves the town without a veterans group with national ties.
The American Legion Post 1505 became inactive in Somers about two years ago.
Back in 2015, when the VFW’s woes came to light, the then-commander of the Somers Jewish War Veterans Post 46, Larry Kaufman, expressed support for “a great bunch of guys” and spoke about his own group’s struggles with attrition.
About two years later, the JWV was likewise forced to fold its tent.
Kaufman, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict, refused to take defeat lying down, according to his wife and JWV helpmate, Marilyn.
He bounced back by forming the Heritage Hills Veterans Club for folks who live in the sprawling condo development off Route 202.
Membership is not restricted to any particular religious denomination, Marilyn Kaufman said: “All are welcome.”
The group, which meets every three months, has become quite active and hosts social gatherings, events, and guest speakers, she said.
The measure of a community can be taken in the way it teaches the next generation to respect its local heroes, Marilyn Kaufman said.
She said she was especially moved by an incident this past Memorial Day. A cadre of Boy Scouts lined up to shake the hands of local vets at the ceremonies.
“It was a little gesture that meant so much,” she said, and it reminded her of the Hebrew phrase “L’dor V’dor,” which translates to “from generation to generation.”
That’s the bottom line. “Whatever we do, we lead by our example.”