Editor’s note: The 30th anniversary for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 6899 was Feb. 13. Here, Assistant Quartermaster Gene McLeod describes the history of Trinity’s local VFW.
By Gene McLeod
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 6899 charter was established on February 13, 1987 in the community of Sebastopol, TX, which is located about eight miles east of Trinity. There are fifty-two members listed on the original charter, and the Ladies Auxiliary was established on the same date, and has twenty-six members listed on their original charter.
Members held regular meetings in a small building called the “Sportsman’s Retreat”. D. R. Emmons was elected as the first Commander of the Post but had to resign due to work conflict. Roy Erickson succeeded Mr. Emmons and was the first Commander of the Post to complete the first tour of duty. Bea Erickson was the first Lady Auxiliary President.
To keep the Post solvent and fund different projects, VFW members and Ladies Auxiliary joined together raising monies with bake sales, barbeque and spaghetti suppers, dances, fishing tournaments and many other types of fundraisers.
In 1990 the Post was moved from Sebastopol to Trinity, Texas and regular meetings were held at the Trinity Community Center. Finally, five acres of land was purchased on West Caroline Street for $30,000 and this was the beginning of our brand new “permanent” home.
Our new home has a history, too. It was also the site of old Lansberry Elementary school building built in 1954. In 1976, Trinity ISD built a new elementary school and the building became a sewing factory. In 1979 the factory burned down and stood vacant until 1992.
The concrete foundation was still intact and in good condition and was used in the construction of our post. Essie Frazier, who was a retired teacher living across from the school, said before 1954 the five acres owned by Doctor Bonds was a cow pasture and had a pond on it.
On January 7, 1992 at our regular meeting, a building committee was formed to formulate facts and plans for a new building.
On April 6, 1993, Red Dot Construction Company submitted a bid of $63,000 to erect a metal building. At the next regular meeting a motion was made and passed to borrow $100,000 from the First National Bank of Trinity and our first Christmas party was held in the new building in December 1993. In April 1994 members of VFW Post 6899, Auxiliary and Trinity dignitaries gathered for the dedication of the Post led by Pastor Leroy Brown.
On February 27, 1999, VFW members gathered together and held a “Note Burning” ceremony – paid in full.From 1994 to 1999 members were working very hard to get the VFW’s name recognized in the community – Buddy Poppy and Memorial Day programs, other VFW programs and conducting bingo.
In 1998 Commander Charles Ainsworth and President Terry Scudder buried a Time Capsule in a pillar under construction at the entrance of the VFW Post. The Time Capsule is scheduled to be opened in the year 2075.
In 2000, Commander Johnny Arnold suggested two Post programs that have propelled VFW Post 6899 to the forefront in Trinity County: the VFW “Honor Guard” detail and our Youth Scholarship program. To date, these two programs have given the Post an outstanding positive image and feedback from all areas in the county.We are averaging about twenty-five Flag presentations and military funerals per year – We are proud of our VFW scholarship program awarding $10,000 each year to our youth.
Our students from Trinity County have graduated from Texas A&M, the University of Texas, Stephen F. Austin State University, Baylor, Sam Houston State University, several nursing schools, one student graduated from a culinary school in Dallas, and we are really proud of our Yale University graduate who maintained a 3.9 GPA. In 2001, with the help of Trinity County Judge Mark Evans, the VFW Post 6899 made a request to the Texas Department of Transportation to rename the Trinity River Bridge to "Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Bridge". In July 2004 bridge dedication ceremonies were held and World War II “Pearl Harbor” survivor Edward Martinson did the honors and unveiled the sign.
Throughout the years, we have conducted an “Annual Easter Egg” hunt for the children; we have an annual “Head Start” Christmas program for kids; annually, we donate school supplies to all four elementary schools in Trinity County; we recognize Gold and Blue Star moms; we conduct “Flag Disposal” ceremonies with the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts; we donate and install Flag poles in area cemeteries in honor of deceased veterans; we donate and build wheel chair ramps for veterans and their spouses; monthly, we donate prizes and conduct bingo at Avalon Nursing Home; on Veteran’s Day, we hold a free pancake and sausage breakfast for all veterans; on Memorial Day, we select a cemetery in Trinity County and place flags on each veteran’s grave; and each quarter we donate personal supplies for veterans in the hospital. We also participate in all the Veterans Participation Project programs, and in 2009, we adopted United States Air Force Unit, 532nd ESFS/CCF, Balad Air Force Base, Iraq and sent care packages.
After Hurricane Rita in September 2005, refugees from the coastal areas moved inland and VFW Post 6899 opened the doors as a disaster shelter. We were unprepared for this emergency – it was hot, dark on the inside, no bedding, no showers and no other disaster supplies. We learned from that disaster and in 2006 we contacted Trinity County Judge Mark Evans and the County Commissioners - we requested their help to apply for a grant for disaster equipment, especially a generator for the building. It took a long time for our request to come about, but in 2011 our automatic gas generator went on line.
In 2012 we were designated by the Red Cross as a “Disaster Shelter” for Trinity County – we can easily handle 300 refugees. We have participated in many other community activities such as projects with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, parades, presentations, etc.
On the fun side, we conduct charitable bingo on Thursday and Friday nights and we have one VFW dance per month with a live country band. We also have several fundraisers per year and our most successful is our VFW “Golf War” fundraiser held in October annually.
We have come a long way and owe a debt of gratitude to our charter members who have gone before us. And if it were not for our Auxiliary, we would not be where we are today. They raised more than $50,000 toward our note and we are truly partners and forever grateful to the greatest Auxiliary in the State of Texas. Let us never forget what we are here for “To help our fellow veterans and their families” for the sacrifices they have made for our freedom. Across our nation and especially in Trinity County, Texas “VFW” symbolizes volunteerism and community service. Our motto is, “Honoring the Dead, by helping the living”.