VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th AnniversaryThe VFW Post 1371 Color Guard Retrieves the Colors. (Photo by Wendy Post)
VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

The VFW Post 1371 Color Guard Retrieves the Colors. (Photo by Wendy Post)

“Our veterans’ love is more precious than gold,” is a statement that Denise McHugh, president of the department of the New York Auxiliary said during the 75th Anniversary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1371 in Owego. With Auxiliaries also celebrating their 100th Anniversary, nationwide, McHugh was one of the many members present on Saturday.

With the flooding in 2011 behind them, as well as its recovery, the veteran’s organization had many reasons to celebrate on Saturday. With a new commander taking the helm at the local post, and the auxiliary celebrating 100 years of supporting veterans, the message throughout the evening was one of unison – to continue supporting troops on the front lines, and then taking care of them when they return home.

“This organization was designed by veterans, for veterans,” said Gene Ratigliano, the department of New York VFW commander, adding, “As we meet here, we carry on a tradition of serving our veterans.”

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney traveled to Owego to attend, and extended a personal thanks to the post and the auxiliary for their continued work in supporting veterans. With her only son deployed overseas, Tenney stated, “The one thing I can count on is veteran organizations when he returns.”

Decorated with uniforms representing each branch of service, patriotic themed table settings and décor, and a history of both the VFW Post and its Auxiliary, the guests that arrived had an opportunity to reflect on 75 years, and look forward with optimism.

One of the largest challenges faced by the VFW in Owego, and at the national level, is attracting younger members that have served.

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

Pictured, from left, are Doug Herbert, 5th district commander; VFW Post 1371 Commander Lawrence Osorio; and Department of New York VFW Commander Gene Ratigliano. In this photo, Osorio is accepting, on behalf of the post, recognition of their 75th Anniversary. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Lawrence Osorio, who assumed the command at the VFW Post on June 11, 2017, is 46 years old and served in Desert Storm. Osorio is one of the post’s younger members.

“We have much younger veterans out there,” said Osorio, “who for whatever reason have not joined.” Osorio is hoping to change those numbers.

As a three and a half year member at the post, Osorio also made a statement that signifies the level of support veterans receive, locally.

Never joining a veteran’s organization, Osorio explained that it wasn’t until he moved to Owego four years ago that he decided to join. “They reached out,” said Osorio.

Without veteran participation, however, Osorio said that the VFW would not be able to grow. He did note, however, that the older veterans are the fabric of the organization.

Osorio was welcomed as the new commander on Saturday, and was presented a proclamation by Ratigliano recognizing the anniversary of the post. This proclamation was one of several presented, with the 22nd Congressional District, the 23rd Assembly District, the Town of Owego, and Tioga County all presenting proclamations that recognized the work and dedication of the post and auxiliary members.

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

Ninety-four-year-old Elaine Kravec was recognized on Saturday for being a 71-year member of the auxiliary. Here, she is pictured with a little history on the Owego Auxiliary from 1994 that has been preserved. (Photo by Wendy Post)

A special guest at Saturday’s anniversary event, 94-year-old Elaine Kravec, was also recognized for being a 71-year member of the auxiliary.

Kravec, in an interview, stated that she was young when the VFW was chartered, and didn’t want to join the auxiliary yet – so she waited a few years and joined in 1946. And Kravec has a deep history with the auxiliary and the military members it has supported.

Kravec’s brother, Glen A. Warner, is the soldier that the VFW Post was named in honor of. Warner was killed while serving with the U.S. Army in Germany on Feb. 23, 1945. He was the first member of the post that was Killed in Action.

And to go back further in time, her mother, Nina Warner, was an Auxiliary member that traveled to national conventions at one time.

Kravec reminisced on how her mother would take a bus out west to some of the larger conventions. “When they found out she was taking the bus,” said Kravec, “they started to fly her out instead.”

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

Pictured, the new VFW Post 1371 Commander, Lawrence Osorio, offers a small gift to the outgoing Commander, Ralph Tapia. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Kravec herself held many offices within the Auxiliary over the years to include flag bearer, doorkeeper and secretary.

And the mission of the auxiliary is one that Kravec holds close to her heart. “Services help all the veterans and their families,” she stated, adding, “We do for the veterans in the homes, too.”

At the age of 94, Kravec stated that she can’t make the meetings, but she stays involved in any way she can and was honored to be a special guest on Saturday.

Humbly, Kravec stated, “It’s pretty nice,” when asked how she felt about the honor.

McHugh, whose quote, “Our veterans’ love is more precious than gold,” has resonated among the members, addressed guests at the anniversary celebration on Saturday and commended them, stating, “What a strong group of men and women you are.” She spoke in specific relation to their coming together to replace records and other items that were lost in the flooding of 2011.

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

Shellie Moats and Julie Dodge led a special presentation at the POW / MIA Remembrance Table at the end of the evening. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Auxiliary members Shellie Moats and Moira Osorio worked with other members for approximately one month to fundraise and prepare things for the anniversary celebration, to include the uniforms on display that belonged at one time to post members.

“All the effort and all the sweat that goes into this is for them,” said Moats. “They gave for us.”

Moats and Julie Dodge led a special presentation at the POW / MIA Remembrance Table at the end of the evening. According to Jim Raftis, Sr., who served as Master of Ceremonies for the event, Tioga County has four Prisoners of War and four Missing in Action. “May we never forget,” stated Raftis.

Also recognized at the event was Christine Earl, who performed a life saving act on a baby at a VFW function; and Hunter Zabel, who was recognized for his volunteerism, and who cooks at the VFW on Tuesday evenings. Martha Sauerbrey, chair of the Tioga County Legislature, presented both Earl and Zabel with a proclamation, recognizing them for their efforts.

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

Post Chaplain Danielle Ingram renders the Benediction. Standing next to her is Master of Ceremonies, Jim Raftis Sr. (Photo by Wendy Post)

The ceremony concluded with a Benediction rendered by Danielle Ingram, post chaplain, and the Retrieval of the Colors by the Post 1371 Color Guard.

History

The National Veteran’s of Foreign Wars was established on Sept. 29, 1899. In May of 1942, Charles Bennett was given authorization to from a post in Owego, N.Y. In June of 1942, the VFW Post 1371 began as Tioga Post 1371, with 18 members and David Livingston as the first Post Commander.

On Sept. 17, 1944, Post 1371 established a chapter of the Ladies Auxiliary, a nationally recognized companion organization of the VFW.

Glenn A. Warner, an Owego native, was killed while serving with the U.S. Army in Germany on Feb. 23, 1945. His mother, Nina, had signed him up with the post when he went overseas. Warner was the first member of the post to be killed in action, and the post was renamed Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 in his honor.

In the early 2000’s, another companion organization, the Men’s Auxiliary, was formed to support Post 1371.

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

Auxiliary members worked to display the history of the VFW and Auxiliary, along with items belonging to the post, and uniforms, which were worn by members. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Community connection and support has been a long-standing mission of Post 1371. Most recently providing aide to groups like the boy scouts, little league, youth football, junior bowling, and many other area activities. The post partners with and raises funds for local service organizations like the Tioga County Rural Ministry, food pantries, and care packages to the troops. They also engage in other types of charitable giving such as donating space for blood drives.

Post 1371 fosters patriotism in the greater Tioga County community and surrounding areas by taking part in parades and ceremonies on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and the annual POW/MIA Vigil and Flag Day. Flags honoring deceased veterans are placed at gravesites in local cemeteries for Memorial Day each year. The VFW Honor Guard pays last respects at the funerals of veterans around the region at the request of their loved ones.

In 2016, the National VFW declared the Ladies and Men’s Auxiliaries to be a gender-neutral and inclusive organization, combining them as the Post Auxiliary.

To learn more about the VFW Post in Owego, call 687-1371 or stop by and see them on Main Street in Owego.

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary

VFW in Owego celebrates 75th Anniversary
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Auxiliary members look through some memorabilia during the VFW’s 75th Anniversary celebration on Saturday. (Photo by Wendy Post)

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