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Local veterans work tirelessly for the community

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post's past commander, Chris Ingraham, has first-hand knowledge and experience with the VFW's National Home for Children. He also is the State and District chairman of the VFW National Home for Children.

Fallbrook's VFW post just held a fundraiser for the program, which takes families and children and houses them for up to four years on the VFW National Home for Children property in Eaton Rapids, Michigan.

Ingraham said to qualify, you need to be of veteran status, be struggling, and or need a job.

"The 911 vets couldn't hold a job, couldn't pay the bills, and (the program) taught them new trades. If Mom and Dad had to work, the home has full-time daycare for the kids. There are numerous activities for the kids and families," Ingraham said.

The Eaton Rapids site has 42 homes on the property. Two of the homes are sponsored by the California VFW: California 1 and California 2.

"It's their own community," he said, speaking of the entire property. "There is a gym, a library, daycare, water treatment center, and its own sewer. They are tied into the electrical grid. They have their own fire department, too," he said, adding that all their bills are paid for during the four years there to help them get back on their feet.

The Montana VFW sponsors the Farmstead on the Eaton Rapids property. Ingraham said the little farm offers 4-H. It also plants and harvests.

The VFW National Home for Children was founded on Jan. 7, 1925. The 472 acres in Eaton Rapids were donated by millionaire cattleman Corey Spencer, who wanted to help World War I veterans, Ingraham explained.

Ingraham's involvement with the national home started in his formative years, "Mom and Dad were big into VFW. I spent time helping out at the homes," he said. His family home was just 20 minutes away from the Eaton Rapids property.

Ingraham, a sergeant, served in the United States Marine Corps and saw action overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and more. He received an honorable discharge in 2004. He still works on base, he said.

He joined the Fallbrook VFW Post in 2016/2017. "When the VFW State Commander heard I was from the Eaton Rapids area, he asked me if I would like to be chairman for the State and District VFW for the national home program. I accepted," he said.

In explaining the VFW organizational structure, he said it was a lot like the military. There is a Commander, Senior Vice Commander, a Junior Vice Commander, a CO (Commanding Officer), and an operations manager. All officers are veterans of foreign wars.

The local VFW sponsors homes and does fundraisers to keep the homes going, he said.

A 50-percent decrease in membership is plaguing the local VFW, and there is a push for membership.

When asked if it was just a place to gather and drink and eat, he replied, "That's the biggest misconception we have."

He said the organization is a 501 C 19 because of veteran status and all donations are tax deductible.

"We do a lot for this community. We sponsor at Fallbrook High School, active duty units on base, and more," he said.

There are two different ways to join the VFW. The first is you have to be a veteran of any age and any foreign war. The other way is via the Auxiliary, where a possible member joins because of an immediate family's military service.

The Auxiliary supports the VFW, and has its own officers and community involvement.

Ingraham said the organization is aging, and it needs more members. He predicts that the annual Veteran's Day Parade in Fallbrook will not take place this year, because there aren't enough members to make it happen.

A number of events take place throughout the week at the VFW, which is at 1175 Old Stage Road. 760-728-8784.

Monday night is Burger night: $8 for a single, $9 for a double.

The Second Tuesday of the month is Rib Eye Steak dinner. It comes with a generous 16 oz. boneless steak, a vegetable, potatoes, salad, and dessert for $20.

The Third Friday of the month is the Salmon Dinner, which includes blackened salmon, rice pilaf, salad and dessert, for $18.

The Fourth Friday of the month is a Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner comes with garlic toast, salad and a dessert for $10.

The sales for its dinners help fund its many programs. The recent fundraising dinner for the VFW National Home for Children took place July 29, at the local post, and raised $918.


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