The VFW was originally established in 1899 as two separate organizations: the American Veterans of Foreign Service, established in Columbus, Ohio, and the National Society of the Army of the Philippines, established in Denver, Colorado.
They were organized to gain rights and benefits for veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippines War that followed. In 1914, the two organizations merged into one, thereby creating the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. The organization was chartered by Congress in 1936.
Much of its focus over the years has been dedicated to ensuring that the rights of all veterans, including active and reserve forces, are not overlooked. It is also an advocate for a strong national defense and a firm foreign policy.
The VFW actively lobbies Congress on behalf of veterans and their families and issues relating to the national defense.
The organization, along with its sister organization, the VFW Auxiliary, promotes veterans causes in communities throughout the United States. Among their better-known activities is the annual Buddy Poppy program, which raises funds to be used for service programs and relief for needy veterans. Last year the Buddy Poppy program raised in excess of $15 million.
Eligibility to become a member of the VFW is restricted to individuals who have an overseas campaign ribbon or received imminent danger pay, or who are related to someone who has.
Many VFW posts have been engaged this year through the Military Assistance Program in campaigns to send needed items to servicemen and servicewomen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In its last meeting, the Elizabethtown Town Council passed a resolution proclaiming VFW Day to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the organization's founding.