Veterans of Foreign Wars members traveled the VFW Memorial Highway (U.S. Highway 83) recently in observance of the 110th anniversary of the VFW.
The plan for VFW representatives to travel the entire length of U.S. Highway 83 between its northern border (U.S./North Dakota/Canada) and its southern border (U.S./Texas/Mexico) was the idea of the Nebraska VFW, said Robert Volk, of Harvey, past N.D. state VFW commander.
"It was their idea to do something for the 110th anniversary. They said one (group) will start at the Mexican line and the other from Canada, and all will meet at North Platte, Neb., for a rally," Volk said.
Submitted Photo --
Steve Volk, left, of Bismarck, North Dakota state Veterans of Foreign Wars judge advocate, and his father, Robert Volk of Harvey, past N.D. state VFW commander, have their photo taken at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial in North Platte, Neb., Sept. 27, where a road rally ceremony was held.
Volk, his son Steve, of Bismarck, N.D. state VFW judge advocate; and Ed Bennett, of Belcourt, state VFW commander, made up the N.D. group starting the northern leg of the road rally which began Sept. 27 at the border of the United States and Canada near Westhope. Several VFW representatives from Nebraska also were there for the start. They made various stops at VFW posts along the way. The Volks Robert, a Korean War veteran and Steve, a Gulf War veteran and the Nebraska representatives finished the trip at North Platte. Bennett made the trip as far as Bismarck.
Another group of VFW members started at the border of the United States and Mexico, traveling north to North Platte.
"We stayed overnight in Valentine, Nebraska, then to Stapleton, Nebraska. There we were met by a whole caravan of state officers from the VFW from Nebraska and the national VFW commander, Thomas Tradewell, of Wisconsin. County and state police escorted us from Stapleton into North Platte where all met at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial," Robert Volk said. He said a large crowd attended a rally there on Sept. 29, followed by a reception and banquet that night.
VFW roots go back to 1899
The recent Veterans of Foreign Wars Road Rally was the official celebration of the VFW's 110th anniversary, said Robert Volk, of Harvey, past North Dakota state commander of the VFW.
The VFW of the United States, with its auxiliaries, includes 2.2 million members in about 8,100 posts worldwide, according to its Web site.
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. Some of the veterans banded together and formed organizations which would become known as the VFW of the United States, according to the VFW Web site.
In N.D., at the end of 2008 there were more than 9,000 post members, Volk said. The 2009 numbers will not be available until the end of the year. He said North Dakota has 67 posts and 40 auxiliaries.
Membership requirements in the VFW are that a person must have received a Campaign Medal for overseas service or served 30 consecutive or 60 nonconsecutive days in Korea or received hostile fire or imminent danger pay. A person also can be currently deployed in an area that qualifies for VFW membership, according to the VFW Web site which has more information available at (www.vfw.org).
Volk explained the history of the VFW Memorial Highway.
Volk said there are several signs along U.S. Highway 83 in North Dakota saying the highway is designated the VFW Memorial Highway.
"There are signs on the south side of Minot, at Westhope as you come across to the south, one at Bismarck, one south of Sterling and one at the South Dakota/North Dakota border," Volk said.
He said the signs were installed by the N.D. Department of Transportation in 2001 and the VFW paid for the signs.
Robert Volk was state commander of the VFW at the time and designating U.S. Highway 83 in N.D. as the VFW Memorial Highway was his project for the year, he said.
"This all started in Nebraska the idea to name Highway 83 the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Highway and they, in turn, got in contact with each state and asked them to do the same," Volk said.
"While it was my commander's project to get U.S. Highway 83 named VFW Memorial Highway in North Dakota, without the big help of Wayne Paulson, VFW state adjutant/quartermaster, and the late Rep. Janet Wentz, (R-Minot), it would have been a much harder task," Volk said. Paulson is from Minot.
"Between them, they really got this going," Volk said. After the bill's approval, he said the money for the signs was raised through the VFW.
Of the recent road rally, Volk said, "It accomplished what everyone was trying to do.