Veterans sought to organize VFW in Blair

BLAIR – When Blair native Freddie Watkins finished his 8-1/2 years of service in the Army in 1980, he carried his military experiences from Korea, Germany and Japan with him, always happy to run in to other military veterans who shared those same experiences, albeit in another country or another war.

Today, Watkins, 65, and fellow Army veteran (ret.) Dr. Mark Smirkle, a psychiatrist in Columbia, are the driving force behind a proposed VFW in Blair.

“I’m a member of a VFW in Columbia and it’s a great organization, but I would like to see one in Blair,” Watkins said. “There lots of vets here in Blair, and about 75 or so veterans of foreign wars in this area. We’re trying to contact them and encourage them to join us in starting a VFW here in Blair.”

Watkins said at least 25 members are needed to be chartered.

After retiring from his career as an underwater welder seven years ago, Watkins purchased the DeJaVue sports bar in Blair. He hopes to close the sports bar and use the 2,400 square foot building for the VFW meeting place.

Eligibility for membership in a VFW is based on honorable service to the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard, Watkins said.

“This can be officers or enlisted personnel who have served in any foreign war, insurrection, expedition, served in Korea or earned Hostile Fire or Imminent Hostile Fire pay,” he said.

Persons still serving in the active Armed Forces may also be accepted for membership provided they meet eligibility requirements.

Watkins said the organization is important for veterans because it fosters camaraderie among U.S. veterans of overseas conflicts and serves to advocate on behalf of all veterans.

Veterans from other posts as well as veterans who have never belonged to a VFW can become members of the Blair post, Watkins said.

Those veterans of foreign wars who are interested in becoming members of a VFW in Blair can call Watkins at (803)429-5015 or email him at [email protected]