Coronado VFW Celebrates 85 Years (Event May 20th)

This group of VFW Auxiliary members was crucial to the formation and success of the VFW-Coronado over the decades. They turned out in force to help our soldiers and sailors. The Auxiliary quickly became the backbone of the organization, both locally and nationally. This photo was taken in 1938.

CORONADO VFW POST 2422 TURNS 85

In 1932, in the middle of the Great Depression, more than 100 members of the Coronado community signed a petition to be granted their own chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Coronado Post 2422. A month later the VFW Auxiliary was founded.

This week Coronado Post 2422 and the VFW Auxiliary invite the public to join them as they open their doors for a community party to celebrate their 85th anniversary. The event takes place Saturday, May 20, from 2-6 p.m.

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The VFW is located at 557 Orange Avenue. Light refreshments will be served and a no-host bar will be available. The band Jump Start will provide music throughout the day.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars nationally was established in 1899. It was formerly reorganized in 1913 as a series of mergers between previous veteran organizations serving the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection.

The purpose of the VFW is to aid in rehabilitation of this country’s disabled and needy veterans while promoting Americanism through education, patriotism and constructive service to local communities.

“We started out meeting at the Coronado First Baptist Church,” said Post Commander Chuck Lucas. “It was a small group in 1932 with maybe 25 attending that first meeting.”

Those founding members included pilots stationed at Rockwell Field on North Island (a former US Army Air Corps military airfield), sailors off the four-stack destroyers, and even veterans of the Curtiss School of Aviation.

The only rule for membership was that you had to have been in a combat situation or seen combat overseas. It was originally a men’s-only membership. Women weren’t allowed to join the VFW until 1946.

To celebrate their designation as Coronado Post 2422, the VFW Auxiliary staged a picnic in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Guests departed by train from Tent City. Later a dance was held at the Hotel del Coronado, with an official installation of officers at the Tent City Hall.

Today Post 2422 boasts 638 members, and operates out of their facility on Orange Ave near the corner of Sixth Street, on what was initially three lots of property deeded to the VFW in 1952 by the family of General Henry D. Styer (valued at about $12,000 at the time). The post carries his name to this day, and is home to both the VFW and the VFW Auxiliary.

At that time, the old WAVE barracks sat on the recessed side of First Street, alongside San Diego Bay (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service in the US Naval Reserve). The Post was able to acquire one of those unfinished pine buildings, and it was slowly moved to its current location at 557 Orange Avenue, where it became, and remains, General Henry D. Styer VFW Post 2422.

One of the more visible events hosted by Coronado’s VFW is Memorial Day services at Star Park. Every year they remind us to take pause in our busy lives to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our country and our freedom. Top, Mike Turner placing a memorial wreath. Photos by Michael Coleman and Joe Ditler.

During the Depression, very little was tossed aside. That applied to buildings as well. Another of the WAVE Barracks was moved to Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church on Tenth Street, where it became a Sunday school annex and later The Thrift Cottage.

Shortly thereafter, the roof of the Tent City Roller Rink was moved to North Island, where it became (and remains so today) the roof of the movie theatre. Nothing was wasted. Even wood from the shipwreck Monte Carlo was converted into home additions for those lucky enough to retrieve it from the stormy beach.

Over the decades, the role of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has evolved. Where once Vietnam veterans were not considered eligible to join (Vietnam then, was not officially classified a war), today the Post welcomes members from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the many gulf wars since.

Brig. Gen. and Mrs. Henry D. Styer, sitting, for whom the VFW Post 2422 is named. Without their generous contributions the VFW wouldn’t have been nearly as effective throughout the community.

The VFW has always fought for the rights of veterans, be it medical coverage or retirement benefits. Now, the many VFW posts across the country work hard to incorporate entire communities into their outreach.

In those early years, the VFW Auxiliary staged a myriad of events throughout the year to raise money. They hosted teas, card parties, music exhibitions, socials, dinner dances, sewing bees, essay contests with patriotic themes, the annual Buddy Poppy fundraisers, and even hosted an Armistice Day parade in Coronado in 1940. They had a weekly column in the Coronado Journal.

“To this day we remain very active in our community,” said Lucas. “We host a steak fry once a month, and we do rib dinners and an annual chili contest where the Mayor serves as a judge.”

Top, Post Commander Chuck Lucas and visiting VFW dignitaries welcome all of Coronado during the annual July Fourth Open House. Bottom, Gil Nadeau joins other veterans in November’s highly successful Take A Vet To School Day promotion. Photo by Joe Ditler.

Post 2422 sponsors athletic teams, surf contests and individual athletes in need. There is a process whereby individuals or groups can apply for financial support or rent the VFW Hall.

In the 1930s-40s the VFW and Auxiliary repaired broken toys to give to those in need. They hosted Christmas services and Thanksgiving dinners for our servicemen and women who were away from their families. That tradition continues to this day.

The VFW hosts change of command ceremonies, retirement ceremonies, wedding receptions and award ceremonies involving members of the Coronado community.

They have a float in the July Fourth Parade and then open the Post to the public for the day. But the proudest moments for Chuck Lucas are Memorial Day ceremonies at Star Park and Take a Veteran To School Day.

Post Commander Chuck Lucas, addressing the crowd last Memorial Day. Photo by Kel Casey.

“It’s been my policy since taking office here in 2000,” said Lucas, “to continue to reach out to our community, to constantly remind them of our Veterans of Foreign Wars presence in this town. But it’s times like Memorial Day and Veterans Day when we bow our heads, and pay homage to our veterans and those who didn’t come home. That’s what the VFW is all about.”

Under Lucas’ command the VFW has also become highly visible as founding members of the Avenue of the Heroes Committee – evaluating our local heroes regularly for inclusion on large street banners, which fly proudly along Third and Fourth Streets.

There is also a Memorial Wall at Post 2422 where families can honor their beloved veterans on bronze plaques. Currently on the Memorial Wall are General Styer, Admirals Martin, Stockdale and Edney (among others), Duncan Hunter and Medal of Honor recipient John Finn. They also have numerous members of the UDT and SEAL Team, who occupy their own honored section.

The Hurst/Styer family initially funded the Memorial Wall. Once it was underway, Post 2422 created an ongoing fundraising effort to continue the legacy. Prices to be on the wall range from $25-50 for military veterans.

“We’ve been here a very long time,” said Lucas of the 85th anniversary. “Our role is clear, but the world is changing around us. We’re not just a bunch of old war buddies sitting around the bar, sipping drinks and swapping stories. We’ve become very involved in our community.

“At least 80% of the military now is eligible to join the VFW. But we’ve been losing members on the national level for a long time due to new organizations popping up specific to Iran, Iraq and the Afghanistan campaigns.

“Another problem we’ve had is that younger veterans cannot afford to live in Coronado. And because of their busy lives, they often don’t want to commit to belonging to a post or working as an officer or as part of the mechanics that keep such an operation growing.

“In the months and years to come, we hope to keep the Veterans of Foreign Wars a prominent and visible player in not just this community, but across the country.

“The founding morals and directions instilled in this group all those years ago still apply, and perhaps are more needed now than ever before.

“But for the time being, let’s celebrate our 85th birthday. I hope much of Coronado comes down on Saturday, May 20, to help us celebrate.”

 

 

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Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call joeditler@gmail.com, or (619) 435-0767.