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RECOGNIZING THE DEEDS OF OTHERS

Like the armed forces in which its members so proudly served, the VFW makes a practice of recognizing outstanding achievement through medals, citations, and other awards. Its awards program is designed to honor both members and nonmembers of the VFW who have helped to further the organization's goal of making the world a better place in which to live. Consequently, awards are conferred not only for meritorious achievement in various fields of endeavor, but also for achievement exemplifying ideals which the VFW holds in high esteem. Each level of the VFW, from national to post level, is authorized to present a variety of awards, as described below.

VFW National Awards and Citations

Section 616 of the national by-laws provides for a committee to investigate and recommend to the National Council of Administration all proposed candidates for national awards. This National Awards and Citations Committee is composed of five VFW members, each of whom serves for five years. Every year the Commander-in-Chief (who is an ex-official member of the committee) appoints a new member to replace the one outgoing member. He also designates the member who will chair the committee for that year. The National Awards and Citations Committee receives suggestions for award recipients from VFW national officers, VFW program directors, VFW department officers, and interested VFW members. For some awards, the Awards Committee may solicit recommendations from Congressional Committees, the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or other outside sources. The committee meets three or four times annually to consider candidates for major national awards. Recommendations are then forwarded to the Commander-in-Chief and National Council of Administration for approval.

Currently, the VFW presents ten different national awards each year, provided the Awards Committee finds a recipient deemed worthy of each. The awards are: Congressional Award, James E. Van Zandt Citizenship Award, Americanism Award, Dwight David Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award, Hall of Fame Award, Armed Forces Award, Aviation and Space Award, J. Edgar Hoover Award, News Media Award, and Outstanding Firefighter Gold Medal Award. Eligibility criteria for most of these awards are self-explanatory; guidelines are included here for those that are not.

Congressional Award

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Congressional Award is the highest award given by the organization. For this reason, it carries the simple inscription, "For outstanding service to the nation." It is conferred annually upon a sitting member of the U.S. Congress at the VFW Congressional Dinner in Washington, D.C. The recipient of this non-partisan award may be a member of either the House of Representatives or of the Senate. By custom, the award alternates between the two houses.

By awarding this honor to one of our national legislators, the VFW seeks to dramatize the importance of the role of a freely elected legislature in serving the great ends of the Republic, maintaining allegiance to the United States of America and fidelity to its Constitution and laws, fostering true patriotism, maintaining and extending the institutions of American freedom, and preserving and defending our country from all her enemies, at home or abroad.

There are, of course, many ways in which a Congressman may distinguish himself in serving the American people. The Congressional Award may therefore be presented both for service that is carried out in public view to deserved acclaim and for service which gains little public recognition, but may be of equal or even greater value to the country.

In deciding who should receive this honor, the Committee considers each of the 535 members of Congress with respect to his or her achievement in the following areas:

  • contribution to the preservation and perpetuation of the ideals upon which the American system of government is based;
  • recognition by the Congressman's colleagues of his or her service, whether that service be one of quiet dedication and hard work or one achieving wide publicity, to the best and highest interests of the nation;
  • exemplification of the principles of civic duty shared by the VFW, which emphasize the individual, the community, the state, and the nation;
  • unswerving loyalty to, and active performance in, the defense and security of the nation against its foes whomsoever and wherever they may be;
  • compassionate, practical attention to the needs of the men and women who have selflessly given of themselves to the service of America, not only in its wars, but in peaceful pursuits as well;
  • dedication to legislative responsibilities over a period of years and continuous growth in legislative responsibility and experience, not only in fields of special interest to any particular group in American life but in his or her overall stewardship.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars knows and appreciates that there may be many members of both Houses of Congress who meet these rigorous standards. It is their hope that by granting this distinguished award they will call attention not only to the dedicated service of the recipient, in whichever House he may be serving, but to the other deserving members who share the attributes and accomplishments for which the VFW Congressional Award is made each year.

James E. Van Zandt Citizenship Award

James E. "Jimmy" Van Zandt was Commander-in-Chief of the VFW three times, and a veteran of three wars (World War I, World War II, and the Korean War). He served as an enlisted man in World War I and retired as an admiral following the Korean War. Descended from a pioneer family in Blair County, Pennsylvania, Jimmy worked his way from newsboy to United States Congressman. Recipients of the award named in Van Zandt's honor exemplify his dedication to public service, citizenship, and other admirable qualities.

Americanism Award

Gold medal and citation awarded upon authorization of the National Council of Administration to an Individual for Outstanding Contribution to Americanism Principles.

Bernard M. Baruch Gold Medal Award

The Bernard M. Baruch Gold Medal was formerly awarded for contributions to the cause of American security, unity, and world peace. In 1970, it was replaced by the Dwight David Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award.

Dwight David Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award

Gold Medal and citation awarded annually upon authorization of the National Council of Administration to an individual for Contributions to the Cause of American Security, Unity and World Peace.

Al Jolson Gold Medal Award

The Al Jolson Gold Medal was conferred for outstanding contributions in the field of entertainment. In 1973, it was superseded by the hall of Fame award.

Hall of Fame Award

Gold medal and citation awarded upon authorization of the National Council of Administration to an individual for Distinguished Service Rendered Through Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Entertainment.

Armed Forces Award

Gold medal and citation awarded upon authorization of National Council of Administration to active or retired members of the armed forces for Outstanding Contributions to National Security.

Aviation and Space Award

Gold medal and citation awarded upon authorization of National Council of Administration to an individual for Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Aviation/Space.

J. Edgar Hoover Award

The J. Edgar Hoover Award is presented annually to the nation's most outstanding law enforcement officer. It is presented in recognition of the recipient's preeminent abilities; his knowledge and performance of his duties under the law; his dedication to human rights; his integrity, honor, and compassion; and his devotion to public service. The J. Edgar Hoover award is further presented so that brave and honest men and women in the field of law enforcement might know that their dedication and goodwill are appreciated. Finally, the VFW hopes that in giving such an award, those who would subvert the law and order of the nation might learn that their rights and privileges, too, are protected by those they criticize.

Law enforcement officers, in the interpretation of the National Citations and Awards Committee, include:

  • Municipal Policemen
  • County Officials (commonly known as Sheriffs)
  • County Deputy Sheriffs
  • State Officials (commonly known as Highway Patrolmen)
  • Secret Service Personnel
  • F.B.I. Officers
  • Treasury Department Officers (includes Secret Service Agents)

This award is presented in the name of a man who served his nation in the field of law enforcement from 1917 until 1972, and served with great distinction as director of what is now known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 to 1972. Through presentation of the J. Edgar Hoover Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States strives to honor nationally the law enforcement officer who best exemplifies J. Edgar Hoover's most admirable qualities. In so doing, the VFW hopes to show the nation the outstanding character of the men and women of our law enforcement agencies; their dedication to justice; their understanding of the plight of others; their devotion to law and order; their sworn objective to protect the rights and property of all the people of our nation. The recipient of this award must therefore be an outstanding member of his community, his state, and the nation; and more, an honored member of his fraternity.

  • Each year, local, state, and national organizations connected with law enforcement organizations nominate thousands of officers for the J. Edgar Hoover Award. To select the winner, the National Citations and Awards Committee and the National Council of Administration consider the accomplishments and attributes of each candidate, as measured against these criteria:
  • Contribution to the preservation and perpetuation of the ideals of law and justice upon which our government is based;
  • Recognition by colleagues of his or her service, whether that service be one of quiet dedication or one achieving wide publicity, to the best and highest interest of the nation, his community, and law and order;
  • Unswerving loyalty to, and active performance in, the defense and security of the nation against its foes, within and without;
  • Dedication to official responsibilities over a period of years and continuous growth in responsibility and experience, not only in the fields within law enforcement, but in those fields which encompass the community, the state and the nation, and in those fields of human relationship.

In presenting the J. Edgar Hoover Award, the VFW acknowledges that there are many members of law enforcement agencies throughout the nation who meet these rigorous standards. The organization hopes that by granting this distinguished award, it will call national attention not only to the dedicated services of the recipient, but also to all other deserving law enforcement officers who share the attributes and accomplishments for which the J. Edgar Hoover Award is made each year.

News Media Award

Gold medal and citation awarded upon authorization of National Council of Administration to an individual or organization For Outstanding Contributions to a Better Understanding of Our American Way of Life And Its Institutions And Interests by Honest And Forthright Reporting.

VFW Outstanding Firefighter Gold Medal Award

In 1990, the VFW inaugurated a new award to recognize the nation's most outstanding firefighters. This annual award, the Outstanding Firefighter Gold Medal, was first presented that summer at the National Convention in Baltimore. The award is presented in recognition of the officer's preeminent abilities, his compassion for fellow human begins, his knowledge of and performance of his duties, his integrity and honor, and his service to the public, state, and nation. The Outstanding Firefighter Gold Medal Award is presented so that brave and honest men and women in the field of fire safety might know that their dedication and goodwill are appreciated. The VFW also hopes that by making such an award, our fellow citizens will be reminded of the special efforts and sacrifices made by this nation's many firefighters.

Through the establishment of the outstanding Firefighter Gold Medal Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States wishes to honor the firefighter who exemplifies all of the best qualities of our firefighters. In so doing, the organization hopes to clearly demonstrate to the nation the outstanding character of the men and women of our fire fighting agencies; the dedication to country; the understanding of the plight of others; the devotion to fire safety and community; and their sworn objective to protect the life and property of all the people of our nation. The recipient of this award must therefore be an outstanding member of his or her community, state, and the nation; and more, an honored member of the fraternity of firefighters.

Local, state, and national organizations connected with fire safety may nominate anyone who actively fights fires and provides fire safety as a member of any public or volunteer company. From the nominees, the Awards Committee and National Council of Administration chooses a recipient based on his or her accomplishments in these areas:

  • recognition by colleagues of their service, whether that service be one of quiet dedication or one achieving wide publicity, to the best and highest interest of the nation, the community, and fire safety;
  • unswerving loyalty to, and active performance in, the defense and security of the nation's citizens;
  • dedication to their official responsibilities over a period of years and continuous growth in responsibility and experience, not only in fields of fire safety but in those fields which encompass the community, the state, and the nation, and in those fields of human relationships.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States realizes that there are many members of fire safety companies throughout the nation who meet these rigorous standards. By granting this distinguished award, the VFW hopes to call national attention not only to the dedicated services of the recipient, but to all other deserving firefighters who share the attributes and accomplishments which the Veterans of Foreign Wars Outstanding Firefighter Gold Medal Award represents.

National Employment Awards Program

Each year the VFW bestows national awards on individuals, groups, or companies who have furthered employment opportunities for veterans in some way. These awards are intended not only to recognize the achievements of those who have excelled in providing employment services to veterans, but also to increase public awareness of the advantages of employing our nation's veterans. Currently, three different national awards are presented to recognize three different types of achievement in veterans' employment. First, second, and third place winners are chosen for each award. The national employment awards presented are:

Local Office of Public Employment Service Award

The purpose of this award is to recognize Public Employment Service Offices that have excelled in providing services to veterans. It is presented to Public Employment Service Offices that have exceptional records of assisting veterans beyond what is required by federal, state, or local directives. Each department of the VFW nominates one candidate for national competition.

James C. Gates Distinguished Employment Service Award

The James C. Gates Award recognizes extraordinary, meritorious services that have substantially contributed to advancing meaningful employment for veterans. Any individual, group, or organization that has made such a contribution is eligible for the award.

National Employer of the Year Award

This award recognizes employers whose policies and achievements in hiring, promoting, and training veterans - especially veterans with disabilities - are outstanding. By publicizing the experiences of these employers, the VFW hopes to set an example for other employers to follow. Any individual, corporation, or agency with an exceptional record of employing veterans is eligible for the National Employer of the Year Award. There are separate first, second, and third place awards in each of two categories: 1) Large Employer (more than 250 employees); 2) Small Employer (fewer than 250 employees).

Judging of the nominees for the VFW's three national employment awards is conducted by an impartial panel. The panel consists of professional staff members of the Veterans Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor.

National first place winners of each award are invited to the VFW's Washington Conference. There they receive their award before the assembled members of the National Civil Service and Employment Committee. First place winners also receive a check for $1000 to offset expenses. Second and third place awards are forwarded to the appropriate department to be presented during that department's convention.

 

NATIONAL AWARDS AUTHORIZED BY THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

While the Awards Committee and National Council of Administration are responsible for choosing recipients for the ten national awards described above, the national Commander-in-Chief is empowered to present a variety of other national awards. Nominations for these awards are accepted from departments, districts, and posts. Some of the recipients are VFW members; most are not. At least one award is presented in each category annually; sometimes more than one award in a category may be made during the same twelve-month period. Awards are normally presented at the Annual Convention or the Washington Conference.

The Commander-in-Chief is authorized to present the following awards:

  • Gold Medal of Merit and Citation: to an individual in recognition of exceptional service rendered the country, community, and mankind on a national or international level.
  • Silver Medal of Merit and Citation: to an individual in recognition of exceptional service rendered the country, community, and mankind on a state level.
  • Bronze Medal of Merit and Citation: to an individual in recognition of exceptional service rendered the country and mankind on a local or community level.
  • Distinguished Service Medal And Citation: awarded by the Commander-in-Chief to VFW members for distinguished service to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
  • Certificate of Appreciation: awarded by the Commander-in-Chief to individuals or organizations in recognition of outstanding service in keeping with the aims or ideals of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

 

DEPARTMENT AWARDS

Like the national Commander-in-Chief, department commanders are authorized to confer several awards. These awards are most often presented by the commander personally, and include:

  • Award of Commendation: to recognize distinguished citizens of the state or community who have furthered the aims or ideals of the VFW.
  • Heroism Medal: normally presented for heroic acts such as saving someone from drowning or from fire. In 1980, for example, the medal was presented to two high school students in Sioux City, Iowa, who rescued a nun from an attempted mugging.
  • Citizenship Medal: for presentation to citizens in recognition of their local patriotic activities or outstanding qualities of citizenship.

 

DISTRICT, COUNTRY, COUNCIL, AND POST AWARDS

At the local level, certificates may be presented recognizing citizens or organizations for their outstanding service to their community or other human beings. For example, one man was cited for rescuing a drowning child. A company was given an award for employing a high percentage of veterans with handicaps. A woman was recognized for her work with homeless children. These awards are generally given by the unit most affected by the deed, although sometimes more than one unit may commend an individual or organization for the same accomplishment.


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VFW 1998 . Created by Lynn - Last Updated 29 Dec 2001

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