Veterans of Foreign Wars is a support organization for veterans who’ve seen combat. The VFW is dedicated to providing support to combat vets and their families, as well as making a difference in the community.
The San Angelo branch of the VFW started on April 22, 1930, providing a place for combat veterans to have a place where they are understood.
Aside from being just a social gathering place, the VFW allows for many services to be provided to combat veterans in need. For example, a combat veteran who’s recently lost a leg could ask for a wheelchair ramp and it would be provided free of charge through the VFW.
Wayne McShan has been a member for four consecutive years and is now the commander, and his new mission is to revive the purpose of the VFW and to break down the stereotypes regarding the organization.
“People think that the VFW is a bunch of old men sitting around smoking cigarettes and playing dominoes,” said McShan. “Anytime I hear that I say, it’s a bunch of old people because you [younger vets] are not here.”
The building, located on 125 Browning St., features two big halls that can be combined to make a dance hall, a bar, game room, back patio facing the Concho River, and a memorial hallway dedicated to honoring soldiers, their awards, as well as a chair honoring POWs and MIAs.
“We want them to know we haven’t forgotten them,” expressed McShan.” The chair represents that we always have a place for them.”
The struggles that the VFW are facing are financial hardships and lack of new members.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that we’re a local post—there’s a state head and a national head. We don’t receive funding from either of those, we operate on money that comes through our doors,” he explained.
Low membership and negative stigmas have resulted in the San Angelo VFW slowly slipping into anonymity.
“We’re just paying bills right now, that’s all we do,” said McShan,” As membership grows old, they literally start dying off, we drop in number. If we don’t have the young guys and ladies coming in, we lose membership.”
Right now McShan is working on recruiting other Desert Storm vets like himself, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans.
He explains that for the organization to perform at its peak, members need to be active, and the older they get the less active they are.
“I can remember as a kid, you would always see someone with a VFW covering; they were involved in everything,” McShan said about the community involvement of the VFW in times past.
That’s why the post needs more active members, and that will not be problematic once Desert Storm, OEF and OIF vets join the ranks.
But one does not have to be a combat veteran to come into the building and enjoy its services.
“We welcome anyone in, we are a private membership bar, but we invite anyone in,” McShan explained. “We are a family-friendly building.”
That’s why the VFW hosts many events and even rents its spacious rooms out to anyone who wants it, and even holds dances with live music many Saturdays, with artists like Zac Edwards and Brandon Bohall.
McShan says that it provides a great alternative to spend a Saturday night without the drama that comes with a bigger bar, “of course our beer is cheaper that anyone else’s and we keep it ice cold,” he laughs.
The plan is to recruit more active members who will grow the community involvement of the VFW, therefore allowing the VFW to keep on trucking.
“It is a place for guys like me,” stated McShan. “If we don’t have the community’s involvement, we are not going to survive.”
To join Veterans of Foreign Wars, you must have seen combat. Eligibility requirements are on the national website www.vfw.org.
For more information on the local post, or to rent out the building, call (325) 655- 6550 or email [email protected].