The Veterans of Foreign Wars started over 120 years ago after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Philippine Insurrection from 1899-1902. Many soldiers arrived home injured and unwell, with no way to take care of themselves. As a result, a group of veterans started the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States to support these men and women. Today, there are over 1.5 million members.
Arcadia’s local post, Post 720 (located on Thomas Road) will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in early 2021.
“Our post tries to help the veterans that come through our door, whether it be with benefits that they’re entitled to, or overcoming hurdles…we have a veteran resource fund to help (like if a vet comes up short on rent)…we try to step up and help as much as we can,” said Commander Joseph Dora. Dora has been an official member since Operation Desert Storm.
Post 720 used to be located in Central Phoenix, on 7th Ave. and Pierce at a former armory.
“We were opened by a bunch of different veterans. We’re the second oldest continuous operation in the state of Arizona,” Dora said. The post moved to the Arcadia area in the 1950s.
“Our post wasn’t doing so well when I became commander four years ago. We’ve slowly rebuilt the structure, and we’re working on bringing in more members and being a bigger part of the Arcadia neighborhood,” he said.
Post 720 holds a Friday night fish fry and Sunday brunch that are open to members and the public. They also hold a Thanksgiving dinner every year. They have a dance floor that can be rented out and a smaller room – Wolfenbarger Hall – named after one of their Hall of Fame members.
The Hall of Fame was started three years ago and includes five members who have given years of service and volunteer hours to the post. Elizabeth Wolfenbarger might be a familiar name – she’s an Arcadia resident and was the first member of the Hall of Fame.
“We’re trying to build a positive community base, and we have a lot of good people who are part of the post. I’m very honored to be the commander. My mom and dad were VFW members, and my dad was an All American commander. We want to be a place where people can come and use our resources,” Dora said.
Other members of the VFW elect commanders. Before becoming commander, Dora was the senior vice post for five years.
“The VFW is more than just a hall. I’ve seen the differences that it’s made in people’s lives,” he said. “It’s something that means a lot to me. Our motto is ‘we’ve only just begun,’ and I hope to see us last another 100 years in the community.”
Post 720 has some fascinating history behind it. Barry Goldwater was a lifelong member before he passed in 1998. The post adopted the unit that’s named after him at Sky Harbor.
The post has been home to soldiers with silver and bronze stars, along with many who have earned Purple Hearts. They also hold welcome home celebrations for soldiers returning from service.
“Those celebrations are great. You get home, and you know you’re finally safe and able to let your guard down. It’s a great honor for our post to be able to do that. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to thank the men and women who are fighting for our freedom,” Dora said.
Post 720 was able to keep its doors open when the pandemic hit.
“We were able to clean up our facility and repaint our canteen area. We turned a negative into a positive and helped families as much as we could,” Dora said. “People think of the VFW like a smoky old bar where old vets tell war stories. But we’re more than that. Sometimes if you sit down and listen to the stories, you’ll learn a lesson. I’m happy to be a small part and make a difference in someone’s life,” Dora said.
The 100th anniversary will be held in April 2021.