In 1918, the Ft. Lansdale Post No.67 of Sacramento, California, and its Ladies Auxiliary formed the first group for sons and daughters of VFW members. It wasn't until 1934, however, that the National Encampment passed a resolution establishing the Sons of the VFW as an official auxiliary unit. In sanctioning the organization, the VFW opened auxiliary membership to sons, stepsons, and legally adopted sons of all veterans eligible to belong to the VFW. Applicants were required to be between eight and eighteen years of age.
Early members participated in a variety of activities, depending on the philosophy of their parent units. Some VFW posts formed Sons units to help them perform community service work. Others formed units to indoctrinate members' sons in Americanism or to provide a solid base for the post's other youth programs. A few units were started to strengthen father and son relationships. Most Sons units also socialized among themselves or with their Junior Girls unit.
At first, Sons units were quite popular. Three thousand members joined in its first year of existence, and in 1936, membership climbed to 8,000. In 1939, when the Sons of the VFW began publishing a monthly magazine called Acorn, 25,000 members were on its list of subscribers.
As World War II approached, membership in Sons units plummeted. Many units folded when their leadership - the seventeen and eighteen-year-olds - entered the service. In the early forties, the entire program was abandoned by a national mandate.
After lying dormant for two decades, the Sons of the VFW program experienced a resurgence in the 1960's. Some of the old units were revived and a few new units were formed. Presently, approximately six to seven hundred members belong to forty-two units. These members take part in highly individualized programs usually determined by the Sons units themselves. Activities run the gamut from patriotic programs such as replacing worn-out flags and marching in parades to community service programs such as assisting older people with raking leaves, shoveling snow, and other chores. These activities are inserted in between large doses of fun and sporting activities.
While uniforms and accouterments are available from the VFW National Supply, in most units they are optional.
Despite reawakened interest in the Sons of the VFW, the program has one inherent weakness: following a member's eighteenth birthday, there is no further role for him in the organization. A member cannot go on to an advisory/leadership role at a higher level, since these positions are filled by VFW members, nor can he automatically advance into the VFW. This is as the VFW's founders intended. They were well aware of the failures of previous "one-war" veteran's organizations to attain longevity by admitting sons of qualified members. With James C. Putnam, they believed that "red blooded American boys" could not be happy "living on the laurels of their fathers" - a sentiment shared by members of the VFW and the Sons of the VFW to this day.
© VFW 1998 . Created by Lynn - Last Updated 29 Dec 2001