Why I was eligible for membership in the VFW Auxiliary

Sandra Whittenberg

Reminder – Deadlines for VFW Scholarship local entries are as follows:

Patriotic Art Deadline for 2017-2018: 3/31/2018

Patriot’s Pen & Voice of Democracy Deadline for 2017-2018: 10/31/2017

For complete details on each of these three scholarship contests, to run off rules and application forms, go to website, https://vfwauxiliary.org/scholarships/; ask your school office which teacher is in charge of the program at your school or contact our Scholarship Chairman Angie Freedline at [email protected]

Because my father was a Naval ship’s electrician on the USS Columbia (Cruiser) during World War II, and because my husband served as a Medical Corpsman for four years during the Vietnam war era, I was eligible for VFW Auxiliary Membership. I did absolutely nothing to earn it. They paid the price for my membership! And the price, especially for my father, was pretty high!

His ship, the USS Columbia, was launched on December 17, 1941, and he served aboard until it was decommissioned on November 30, 1946. She was sold for scrap on February 18, 1959, for the sum of $188,888.87. The Columbia fought World War II battles mostly in the Pacific – Shortland Islands that covered the landings on Bougainville, the Hebrides, Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands, etc. They took three direct Kamikaze hits, resulting in serious fires which caused much fire damage and many injuries, they were hit once by a torpedo, etc. Sixty men out of a crew of 1255 were killed, and the ship suffered many injuries.

My father’s story is that, as a ship’s electrician, he was always working below deck. When the ship would be hit by a Kamikaze or a torpedo, they would take on water, and he would often have to work below decks for days in freezing-cold water. For the rest of his life, he suffered terrible circulation in his lower legs. To make a long story short, over the years, he had to have part of his right foot amputated, then they had to remove his right leg below the knee. Ultimately, they also amputated his left leg below the knee. That is the price my father paid for defending our country and the price of my eligibility for VFW Auxiliary membership! He was honored with three silver stars for his service and several bronze stars.

My husband served as a Navy medical corpsman during the Vietnam war era. His first oversees tour was with a medical battalion of the Second Marines. When he returned to the Naval Hospital where he had been stationed, the entire staff he had worked with had shipped to Vietnam. For three years, he served at the U.S. Naval Hospital at the Millington Naval Base, Millington, Tennessee. They received Vietnam Marine casualties from five southern states – massive trauma cases and severe wounds. He tells stories like on the old TV show, MASH, where they would operate around the clock for several days – could not stop until all were stabilized and operations completed. This is the price he paid for my VFW Auxiliary membership.

VFW Auxiliary is comprised of members from all walks of life with a common connection; all are relatives of those who served in overseas combat. Interested in VFW Auxiliary Membership? Contact Janice Cournoyer, Auxiliary President, at [email protected]