BY TERRY CHAPMAN WEEKLY REPORTER
O’FALLON – After serving 20 years in the United States Air Force, Jeff Hastings has taken on another role. In June, Hastings was elected to serve as the Illinois State Senior Vice Commander of the VFW.
He became involved with VFW Post #805 in 2001. The day that he first attended happened to be the day that the post was holding elections. Little did he know that he would be involved with the VFW for the rest of his life, helping veterans and their families get back on their feet, while also helping to improve the local VFW post.
“They were struggling with getting members involved,” Hastings said. “They had a hard time getting elected officials to fill some of the important roles. I didn’t know anything about the VFW at the time. I had no idea. I thought ‘I’m retiring from the military in a couple of years. This might be something that I’d be interested in doing. I might as well check it out.’ So the very first meeting that I ever attended, I was elected as Post Surgeon. I asked what that involved. They told me ‘You don’t have to do anything.’ I found out differently down the road.”
Since that first meeting, Hastings has held a great number of elected positions and many appointed positions in the VFW post. The O’Fallon post had eventually received the designation of All American for the first time, which is the highest award that a post can receive annually at the national level, showing that it was the best of the best.
“There’s four divisions nationwide, and they’re divided up by how many members you have at each post. This particular post has 650 members, so it would be a division two post. Only the top 35 posts in each division are selected to be All American. You’re looking at thousands of VFW posts that are considered nationwide.”
The VFW posts are not just native the US, either. There are also posts in Korea and other friendly countries.
“After this post had made All American in 2009, I was this post’s quartermaster. Don’t let anybody tell you differently,” Hastings adds, “the quartermaster is the one who runs the post. The quartermaster takes care of all of the finances and the bills. After doing all of that, I was approached by the District Commander, who told me ‘I’d like you to run for Jr. Vice Commander of District 14.’ Our district covers five counties in Southern Illinois, and covered at that time 26 VFW’s. I was elected at a district meeting. Instead, I was elected as Sr. Vice Commander.”
Since then, Jeff has gone on to hold many other esteemed positions, including Membership Director, Chief of Staff, and the State Inspector, all of which are at the state level. Now serving as the State Senior Vice Commander, Jeff has a message that he would like to send out to veterans and civilians pertaining to the VFW.
“We want to help veterans and their families. We understand what they are going through. We at the VFW understand the struggles of a soldier returning home. We want to show our support. There are widows of veterans who sometimes don’t know the benefits that they can receive, which can even help them stay on their feet and support their family.”
The VFW holds true to their motto; “Nobody does more for veterans.”
This holds true in the sense that it creates a community for veterans. You will always see a multitude of veterans enjoying themselves, while having a drink and sharing stories.
“It’s so much more than a bar,” Hastings comments, “I want people to know that. The bar is a fundraiser that provides money for the VFW, but there’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes.”
If you are a veteran who would like to get involved in an amazing organization, or a civilian would like to donate to the local VFW post of O’Fallon located at 223 West First Street, they can be reached at (618) 624-6575, or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.