RANGELY I At the turn of the 20th century, veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection formed local groups to garner resources and support for soldiers newly returned from combat.
Initially without medical care or pensions, these veterans secured rights that, decades later, would lay the groundwork for a national GI bill, a Veterans Administration and compensation for wounded Vietnam veterans, among other provisions.
Today, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the United States and its auxiliaries offer veterans local and federal support while educating communities about why veterans’ services—and their sacrifices—matter.
By revitalizing its base of support and attracting more local involvement, Rangely VFW Post No. 5261 hopes to do the same.
After the Veterans’ Memorial dedication at Hefley Memorial Park in November, Post Commander Hoot Gibson and Quartermaster Gary Hinaman realized just how many local combat veterans Rangely has and how many more could be plugged into the local VFW.
So, at a ceremony at the Rangely Library on Jan. 8, current members invited all area veterans to celebrate the post’s 50th year in existence and get more involved in the organization.
“We need to get some programs going and get active again,” Gibson said. “There’s only three or four of us getting active, and too many of us have been doing it for too many years. We’re burned out. We need some young people to step up.”
The meeting drew a small crowd while generating interest among attendees.
District Commander Mark Wick attended the event while Colorado VFW State Surgeon Ed Aitken presented Gibson and former Commander Corky Powell Sr. with a congratulatory certificate for Post 5261’s milestone.
Of the approximately 20 people there, several became new members or officers, among them Mark Futch (Chaplain), Lisa Hatch (Senior Vice Commander), Mike Gillard (Junior Vice Commander) and Rod Harris (Trustee).
With new interest stirring and plans to meet monthly in the works, the post hopes to get back to basics.
In the past, that’s meant encouraging patriotism by educating schoolchildren and community groups about why veterans choose to fight for their country, how symbols like the flag represent a nation and how the military has changed over time. It’s looked like presenting the color guard in local parades and giving final honors to veterans who have passed away.
The VFW Post is also a safe place for combat veterans to connect in ways they can’t with anyone else.
“We left this country to go fight somewhere else,” Hatch said. “We all have that in common, so that’s nice. No matter which war we went to, no matter how young or old we are, we have that bond.”
Gibson hopes that in addition to combat veterans revitalizing Post No. 5261, all veterans will soon be able to join a new American Legion post in Rangely.
An organizational meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19 with details about time and location to come.
For now, the VFW meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park Center.
“I hope our veterans are getting the idea they’re welcome,” Gibson said. “We invited several others who weren’t able to make it (Jan. 8), but we would look forward to their joining the organization.”