Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1503 in Dale City proclaims itself to be the largest VFW post in the world. I am a lifetime member. Like so many businesses and organizations, the post has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. I missed my occasional lunch in the canteen.
Now that things are opening up again, I thought I’d check in with the post commander, Tom Levitt. His message to the community is VFW 1503 is open for business. It is cautiously restoring services.
The canteen (dining area) is open for lunch. Bingo is back every Tuesday and Thursday. The club scrupulously follows government guidance to minimize exposure to COVID-19 and is cautiously evaluating offering its popular breakfast, dinner, and entertainment venues in the future as guidance and good judgment allow.
Service clubs of every flavor are going through a generational transition. Older vets from Vietnam and before enjoy a place to smoke, drink and maybe gamble now and then, just like we did “back in the day” at the on-post NCO and officers clubs.
Younger vets from more recent campaigns tend to look for family-oriented venues where they can bring their spouse and children to engage in activities with fellow vets and stay connected. Levitt understands both sets of desires need to be respected and considers himself a bridge between generations. For example, the post voted to become a non-smoking facility. Current members see the future and want to be part of it.
The post is a business. It took a revenue “hit” during the early months of the pandemic. Fortunately, it is well managed, and had reserve funds to get through the rough times and maintain the facility. It had to lay off 44 full- and part-time employees, cut back on its donations to local nonprofits and suspend its regular donations to the Army and Marine Corps Museums. The “good news” is the post is revenue positive once again and bringing back employees as the economic climate permits.
I asked Levitt what to look for during the next few months. He shared that Ron “Papa6” (his call sign) Laney will be managing the Christmas tree sales again this year. According to Levitt, these are the most affordable trees available in Prince William County and usually sell out within a week.
John Meehan, the post’s general manager, will make sure that Christmas baskets for folks who need a little help are distributed again this year. To keep up with VFW Post 1503’s services, activities and events, check out VFW1503.org.
If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service, served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea, or ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, you're eligible to join the VFW. You will find membership information on their website.
Levitt shared how much he appreciates the VFW Auxiliary members, and talked at length about how they serve veterans and the community. If you are the family member of an eligible veteran, you can join the Auxiliary. Find out if you are eligible at vfwauxiliary.org. Auxiliary members have full access to club facilities.
Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, is the post’s namesake. He was a charter founding member. After Puller passed away in 1971, the post was renamed in his honor. He would be proud of Post 1503.
If you are a vet who served in one of America’s wars or are related to one, you should join the VFW. Stop by the canteen. I’ll let you buy me a beer.