By Anne O’Connor
TOWNSEND — The bar is set high with “no one does more for veterans,” Every year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars muster support and call members to Capitol Hill to further their cause.
At the end of February, five members of the Townsend VFW went to Washington D.C. for the VFW National Legislative Conference. They were part of a larger, 11-member Massachusetts contingent.
They met with fellow veterans and with legislators, talking about what is needed for veterans at home.
When Keith Jackson talked about the trip, his enthusiasm was clear.
The same term popped up time and again. “What’s really neat …” preceded many of the trip highlights listed by the National Legislative Committee Member (Massachusetts).
The past post commander of the Townsend post “stormed the hill” with Post Commander Edgar Peay, Quartermaster Russ Moore and two members of the auxiliary, President Betty Mae Tenney and Lisa Jackson, treasurer.
One of the really neat things a female veteran in the Massachusetts contingent, Jackson said. The VFW has made women’s benefits and healthcare a priority. “She was able to articulate a woman’s needs,” Jackson said.
Meeting with Rep. Joe Kennedy was one of the highlights. “He sat down with a piece of paper and a pen,” Jackson said. “I thought that was nice.”
“We really need Congress’s support,” he said.
Armed with talking points from the national VFW, they met with Sen. Ed Markey, five congressmen and with staff from the other four Massachusetts representatives and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The Massachusetts contingent was part of a much larger group. A joint hearing drew veterans from all over. “I had goosebumps seeing VFW hats from all around the world,” Jackson said.
The Townsend VFW is proud of its work and it shows. It had the second highest percentage of members in its division from across the country.
“That’s why Edgar and I were invited,” Moore said.
The Townsend group works well together. When they met with legislators or with staff, they were able to talk effectively as a group.
Tenney has been going to Washington for 20 years. The organizer for local children’s programming at the Townsend post was thrilled with how well-organized the trip was for the winners of the Voice of Democracy essay contest. That trip coincided with the legislative conference.
Veterans sometimes wait until they have been home for decades, after the kids are grown and gone, before they join, Moore said. Once they do, they have a community.
When he first tried to join, the older veterans were not welcoming, he said. Now an older veteran himself, he recruits younger members.
Peay, who was born in Germany, credits Moore with getting him involved with the VFW. Both men are Vietnam veterans.
The VFW also serves the needs of veterans’ spouses, Jackson said. Lisa never knew when he would return, but she knew he would.
Dinner was not always on the table, she said, getting a laugh from the group.