History of the VFW
The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans' pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.
In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations with what would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000.
Since then, the VFW's voice had been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, the development of the national cemetery system and the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, VFW won a long-fought victory with the passing of a GI Bill for the 21st Century, giving expanded educational benefits to America's active-duty service members, and members of the Guard and Reserves, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VFW also has fought for improving VA medical centers services for women veterans.
Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, the VFW in 2005 became the first veterans' organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in November 2010.
Annually, the nearly 2 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute more than 8.6 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week.
From providing over $3 million in college scholarships and savings bonds to students every year, to encouraging elevation of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the president's cabinet, the VFW is there.
History of the Cross of Malta
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States adopted for
its symbol the Cross of Malta, which has a heritage of honor, duty, sacrifice
and courage that dates back to the 11th century. The Cross has its origin in
the Knights of St. John, a strict order of crusaders originally founded to
maintain a hospital for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land. From this order
evolved two divisions, the Knights Templar, famed for their ability to fight,
and the Knights Hospitaler, humanitarians who provided for the sick and
The Knights established branches throughout Europe and moved
their headquarters to Cyprus. From Cyprus the headquarters was eventually moved
to Rhodes in the 14th century and was transferred from there to the island of
Malta in the 16th century. There they became known as the Knights of Malta.
The insignia of the Knights of Malta is basically the same as
the one used today by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It is an 8-pointed cross
formed by four arrowheads meeting at the points. Each represents one of the Beatitudes
taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The arrowheads indicated the knights
were willing to fight for the principles of justice and truth although their
order was basically a peaceful one.
This outlook is similar to that of the VFW, devoted to peace
but comprised of men who have fought and are willing to fight again, for those
principles which embody the individual liberties and dignities of men. The
fundamental objectives of the organization are set forth in a charter granted
it by the Congress of the United States in 1936.
Link to VFW National