Marc Garduno is the state commander of the Delaware VFW. Marc joins us on the show to talk about the benefits of being a VFW member.
Many veterans from the more recent wars associate the VFW with their grandparents generation - like an old man's drinking club.
Marc tells us that nothing could be further from the truth.
The VFW is also involved in a lot of important legislation that affects veterans. Everything from Agent Orange, Burn Pits, and other veteran health care needs. To expanding GI Bill benefits, and Widow's Survivor Benefit Plans.
The biggest takeaway for me though was that a lot of veterans feel like they are missing out on the community environment that they had while serving in the military. That group of like minded individuals who just "get it". The VFW can be a resource where you can connect with other vets in your area (no matter where in the world you are living).
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00 Hey everybody, this is the Drive On Podcast where we've talked about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show. Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast today. My guest is Mark Garduno from the state of Delaware, where he's the commander of the VFW. He's here today to talk a little bit about the VFW and the wide array of projects that they're involved in that assist veterans as they transition from military to civilian life. So, Mark, thanks for joining me. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do with the VFW?
Marc Garduno: 00:45 Wonderful. Thanks Scott. First of all, I'll just thank you so much for the opportunity to be with you on your podcast. It's really a great opportunity to showcase the Veterans of Foreign Wars and what we do in the community, what we do for veterans and their families. I joined the military. I went into the Army in 1987 just about two months to the day after I graduated from high school. So, I'm already in boots at that point. I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky and I served in human resources field. I ended up retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 in Human Resources back in 2008. Great experience. I don't second guess it; I don't regret anything. It's made me the person who I am. A better leader, a better organizer, a person as a whole involved in the community and wanting to give back to veterans
Marc Garduno: 01:37 just as the country has given to me. I'm originally from a small town in Northern New Jersey, just outside of New York City called Richfield Park. There, I went to Richfield Park High School and like I said, I went into the military from there. After service, I've settled down here in Delaware and as you mentioned before, I'm serving as the state commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars here in the state of Delaware. I have three full grown children. The youngest one just graduated from college in the Spring, and I have a wonderful, supportive wife who, I don't know who I would be or what I'd be doing without her. So that's me in a nutshell.
Scott DeLuzio: 02:20 Great. I think I can probably echo that same sort of sentiment with my wife. I don't know really where I'd be or who I'd be without her. So, to me anyways that is something that strikes home a little bit there. So, great. So, we know a little bit about you and your background and one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about, especially with regards to the VFW and the newer era of veterans that are coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of those Wars is the common misconceptions that a lot of the younger veterans have about the VFW. I know, for me before I really started looking into what the VFW is all about, to me it was just one of those things that people from my grandparents' generation would go and hang out there.
Scott DeLuzio: 03:18 Kind of an old man's club type of thing. And one veteran I spoke to recently said he thought of the VFW as kind of like a drinking club for the Korea or Vietnam era Vets. They didn't really feel like the Iraq or Afghanistan Vets would fit in there, like it'd be a place for them. Now I'm sure there's some degree of comradery amongst the members and that to some extent some of that is somewhat accurate but I'm sure there's more to it than just that. So, would you be able to talk a little bit about what it's like to be a member with the VFW and what that's all about?
Marc Garduno: 03:55 Absolutely. Scott, you know, you hit the nail right on the head and that is one of the biggest challenges we face as an organization within the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And I'm sure the other veteran service organizations throughout the country, whether it be the American Legion or other veteran organization, whoever it happens to be somewhat faced the same challenges. And we pretty much did it to ourselves. You know, we went out there and we focused so much on the canteens, the bars and having that sort of an environment that dimly lit, smoke-filled rooms with veterans sitting in the corner or veterans in general talking about days gone by now. I'm not saying that none of those things are important. Quite frankly, the reason the club rooms and canteens exist is to provide the organization a source of revenue in order to fund programs
Marc Garduno: 04:42 they do. However, when we put so much of our focus into that area that a lot of times, we lose sight of what is most important. And so, that stated, it's incumbent on us, the leaders or the organization, to do what we can in order to teach and educate the leaders of the local posts what's truly important. So, that stated. Now for the younger generation of veterans you're right, everyone has different tastes, likes, dislikes and things like that. And perhaps that sort of an environment is not appealing to the current generation of veterans. And so, that's why we have to do what we can to number one, set up the necessary programs that this generation is looking for or at least attract them to the point where we're open to ideas and suggestions from them.
Marc Garduno: 05:42 If they come in and they say, “Hey, the standard pillar programs, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars are important and we should continue doing those. But in this particular community, I think we would benefit more from this or we would benefit more from that.” And that's what's important. So, we need today's generation of veteran, when they join our organization, to not simply look at what material benefit comes from it but rather what they could do to help us change the organization in a path that's more conducive to support for today's generation of veterans and their families. Then as an equal opportunity or just as important is, you know, there's nothing stated out there that when there is a generational divide that you have to join only existing posts, right?
Marc Garduno: 06:41 So, what if today's generation of veteran were to approach the leadership of any department, which is a state entity and say, “Hey, you know what, I think we have a good plan and idea to execute their Veterans of Foreign Wars programs but be more focused towards this area. We would like to start our own post.” It doesn't take a whole lot. It doesn't require a building, doesn't require a canteen to be attached to it. But if we simply required a small group of veterans that have a like mind and like desire and like feeling and put that together, start that post and serve the newer generation of veteran. And that's really something that we consider.
Scott DeLuzio: 07:26 I think through the conversations that I've had with other veterans through this podcast and even outside of this podcast, one of the things that I think a lot of people are missing in that transition from military to civilian life is that bond or that unity, like you said, the likeminded people. Where when you're deployed, you don't have your family, your husband or your wife or your kids or your other family there with you. And so, you sort of rely on the people who are deployed with you to be a substitute for that family. You guys and all the people look out for each other and treat each other as a family.
Scott DeLuzio: 08:13 And a lot of times people come back from their deployments or get out of the military service altogether and they feel like they're missing that. They go and they work a civilian job where people tend to be out for themselves. And it's a lot less of that bond that comes in there. But kind of what you're saying is it seems like there is somewhat of that bond through the local posts through the VFW where you can connect with other veterans who are likeminded and coming from a similar background as the other vets who are there and it seems like that could also be a good way for veterans to get that bond or that common connection back that they might seem like they're missing from the transition back into the civilian life.
Marc Garduno: 09:13 And you're absolutely correct, Scott. Let me tell you an organization like the Veterans of Foreign Wars or just about any veterans service organization out there, you're going to have people who are there who speak the same language as you and that's a huge gap that you have in a civilian community that is a particular benefit. They understand all of those crazy acronyms that we use within the military. And so, even active duty individuals who are still in uniform feel at home there or at least they should feel at home. One of the biggest programs, and I would tell you straight up, within the Veterans of Foreign Wars, two of the most important pillars of our organization is number one, the National Veterans Service and now National Veteran Service are those service officers who are out there in the communities providing access to benefits to veterans who have departed, putting in their claims, access to GI bill benefits, all of those sorts of things.
Marc Garduno: 10:15 Whatever it is, if they need VA home guaranteed loans, all of that sort of thing. Right? So, they assist putting the veterans in touch with that. The other pillar to that is National Legislative Services. Both of those entities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars this year reached a hundred years, a century of service to veterans throughout the country. So now think about this. We've been doing those two missions for the Veterans of Foreign Wars or we've been doing those two missions for veterans longer than many of these organizations even exist, right? So, bar none, if there is an organization out there that knows the importance of these things, it's the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Now, we recently started going down the path of putting together a benefits delivery at discharge program where we have pre-discharge offices at installations across the country.
Marc Garduno: 11:13 Right now we have 24, right? But in 2018, we helped and we assisted over 109,000 veterans in submitting the new VA claims just in fiscal year 2018. 15,000 of those were new claims by veterans just all together new meaning that, separating individuals from the military came to see a service officer, someone from the Veterans of Foreign Wars to help put their packet together. Now when I retired from the army back in 2008, the discharge office, the only thing they had there for us was, and we were lucky, quite frankly, I shouldn't minimize it, but we had a contractor who was contracted directly with the VA. Now I don't want to downplay the importance of that, but you know, you don't go to a used car salesman and ask that used car salesman to tell you the great things about used cars.
Marc Garduno: 12:16 No, you go to Kelly Blue Book and you get all the information, you question the source, right? So, what better than to have a third party, an individual whose only focus is the veteran, him or herself, to ensure that they have the best access to quality healthcare or benefits that are available to them by going to a veterans’ service organization and that person provides them that information. So, this is a program that in my personal opinion Veterans of Foreign Wars could potentially expand on and with the help of other organizations create or assist with the revenue necessary in order to facilitate that sort of a program. So, more and more we're going down that path and this is why I believe our organization is relevant and timely to veterans who are separating today by assisting them in that transition.
Marc Garduno: 13:10 I would finish that by telling you this. I always say that the military does a great job of creating war fighters and that's what they're there to do, right? They are there to create the soldiers, the sailors, the Marines, to make them the best fighting force in the world, which we are. Bar none. Okay. But then when it's time to separate, I think we could do a whole lot better at teaching and educating the separating veteran to become a veteran and that doesn't necessarily happen. Sure, they have the TAP program, the Transition Assistance Program and all of that sort of thing, which is great, right? But not what happens when the individual is getting ready to separate from the military. I will tell you, Scott, you know those last six months prior to separation, the only thing we are typically focused on is getting out of uniform and getting back home.
Marc Garduno: 14:05 How quickly can I separate and this is what I have to do once I get out. Hopefully, it's going to school, find a job, whatever it is. But that's not necessarily the case for everyone. So, they go through a TAP program at their local installation. Let's say it's Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Then when they separate, they end up, who knows maybe somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. Do they have a network of people there? No, probably not. Do they have the resources necessary in that location, wherever they end up in order to network, find a job, and find the resources that are available for veterans in that local parish? So why not look to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars to help in that process? That’s why we exist.
Scott DeLuzio: 14:53 And that's a very important mission for you to have is to be that resource that's outside of the military. It's not necessarily connected to the military because like you said, the military does a great job at turning out warfighters. The soldiers and the Marines, airmen, sailors and everything. They do a great job at teaching them their job and how to do the thing that they're supposed to do. But they're not as focused on teaching them how to transition back into the civilian world because quite frankly, that's not going to win a war. That's not going to get our troops to be dominating on the battlefield. And rightfully so. They focus on the one thing that they do really well and they do it really, really well.
Scott DeLuzio: 15:51 And that's why our military is the gold standard throughout the world in terms of our fighting capabilities. Organizations like the VFW and other veteran service organizations that are out there, it falls on them to pick up the slack and it's not a knock on any of the organizations in terms of the current state of veterans’ affairs and things like that. It's one of those things that I think veterans just need to bite the bullet and get involved with some of these organizations even if it may not be the thing that they feel like it's the most comfortable situation. Because maybe it feels like it's their grandfather's drinking club or something like that but they do need to get involved with some of these things because that's where a lot of this change is taking place and where a lot of the assistance they desperately need is going to happen.
Scott DeLuzio: 16:59 Even if there is a post where there's a lot of the older generation there, I don't think that it's necessarily a bad thing to have any of the younger generation mixing in with the older generation either.
Marc Garduno: No, there is nothing wrong with that.
Scott DeLuzio: I read somewhere that both the older era's, the World War II, Korea, Vietnam, that era and the more recent war era of veterans through the VFW and other organizations like this when they do get together, they tend to swap stories. You know, the typical war story type thing that you might think about but about each other's service. And they tend to somewhat impress the other generations.
Scott DeLuzio: 17:56 The older guys impress the younger guys and vice versa, where the younger guys are maybe in awe of the stories about World War II vet storming the beaches of Normandy or something like that. Whereas, the older vets might be shocked at the fighting conditions of the younger generation where they have to deal with an enemy that doesn't even wear a uniform and they just blend into the civilian population, like you might see in Iraq or Afghanistan. And so, those types of things, co-mingling, I think can help each other. Not only the younger generations helping out the older generations, but also vice versa, where they can help build that kind of community and camaraderie there too.
Marc Garduno: 18:44 You bring up good points. And in a typical social setting, there's not going to be much of an issue when it comes to that. Scott, in the typical social setting, you're absolutely correct. You get the slightly older generation of veteran together with today's veteran and then they'll start swapping those stories. And that's what the concern might come up where in today's generation of veteran where that I see and that concerns me is when you have a female veteran come into the post home whether it's in the canteen or in the hall or whatever it happens to be and she's looking for information about the Veterans of Foreign Wars and wants to potentially join. And the first thing they get is a glare and can we help you?
Marc Garduno: 19:32 Yeah. Do you want to join the auxiliary? And that's the education process. So, number one, we have to continue to educate the members and the veterans that we already have; the members who are part of our organization. But at the same time, I would encourage veterans to please don't give up on us, right? Just because you get that. You've gone through a lot already while you were in the military, no doubt in my mind, but please, join us and say, “well, you know what, I'm a veteran and I want to join this organization if you'll have me.” So, I would encourage that to occur. Then the other part is when you go to those general membership meetings and proposals are being put out their ideas for new programs sometimes get that look from some of the older generation that will look at that person and say “they're young pups.”
Marc Garduno: 20:32 You're too young to know the ins and outs. Why don't you hang around for a while longer before you start voicing your opinion or providing input and that sort of thing. And that's just not what we're about. We should be looking, hearing and discussing, trying to figure out, before we just absolutely say no, let's figure out how we can say yes and see how we could carve that into our annual program for that particular post. Like I was mentioning before, we had the standard organizational programs that we deliver on a year in, year out basis. However, each particular post could gauge their own communities and determine what that community needs in order to best serve the local veterans, their families, and the community as a whole. If that can be done, right? So, I ask people please take a look at our organization and see how you can best fit.
Scott DeLuzio: 21:30 Yeah, absolutely. And I think that you brought up a great point there, too. And, perhaps as a male veteran, I hadn't even considered some of the issues that some of the female veterans might have experienced by walking into a place where traditionally it was dominated by men in those individual posts. And then getting that look of “what are you doing here?” In that situation, I feel like the female veterans have been through just as much, if not more as some of the male veterans and they have just as much right to be a member of this organization and other veteran organizations as any male whoever served.
Marc Garduno: 22:27 Absolutely.
Scott DeLuzio: 22:29 That was a great key point. I think for any of the female veterans who might be listening, definitely reach out to the VFW or other organizations that are out there for veterans and become a part of that community because you're not forgotten in terms of your service, your service means just as much as any male veteran service and you should be taking advantage of any of the opportunities that are presented through some of these organizations. Whether it's through VA claims or the GI bill, things like that and getting assistance with all that.
Marc Garduno: 23:12 And if I may, let me just talk about that just a little bit. The female veterans, any that may be out there listening, let me tell you, I'm going to tout my horn just a little bit because the post that I come from here in Delaware has bar none, the largest percentage of female veterans in the state who are members, not only do we have a lot of female members in our particular post, the post commander is a female veteran and the vast majority of the active members who show up month in, month out and are helping to deliver the programs are our female veterans. So, I'm extremely proud and the other part is we are an organization who is doing what we can to support the female veteran on Capitol Hill. Last week I was out up at DC and we were pushing the national legislative agenda and part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars legislative priorities was that of female veteran healthcare.
Marc Garduno: 24:05 And when we realize that the typical VA hospital was built, structured, created on average about 50 years ago, what was the difference in demographics between back then and now? Well, clearly now we have just a much larger female veteran population. But I think the department of defense wise, we're probably somewhere between 16 and 18% are females. And so, clearly, we need to ensure that the access to health care also includes female specific healthcare because that's what's needed and required. Even the typical post-op recovery room. Well, let's think about the scenario there. Why can't they make sure that we have the privacy requirements for a separate post-op room for females or the cubby hole type situation. So, there is sufficient level of privacy once they get out of post op, neonatal health care, all of those sorts of things that we forget about as the standard male veteran; we forget about those things because, “Hey, we're taken care of.” But what about our sisters who were out there fighting the same dirt, living the same lifestyle, dealing with the same dealings and the same kind of Nazi leadership requirements that would roll downhill. You know, they deserve it. And here we are as veterans and we should do everything we can to provide support for them.
Scott DeLuzio: 25:40 Yeah, absolutely. Along those lines with the legislative priorities that you were talking about, what are some of the other legislative issues that the VFW is involved with? In terms of going to Washington, talking about making improvements for veterans and things like that. What are some of those things that you guys are involved with?
Marc Garduno: 26:07 Well, the VFW has had their fingerprint, their footprint on just about every major piece of veteran-related legislation since our national legislative service began. Just earlier this year, we finally were able to convince the VA to drop their fight and then we were able to convince Congress to pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which supports that. There was this thought process out there that just because an individual was serving on a ship offshore in blue waters that there was no way possible, they could have been exposed to Agent Orange. How do you think they got the Agent Orange over in Vietnam? And then not only that, but then you had other areas where they would dip foliage type of agent like in the DMZ in Korea and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Marc Garduno: 27:04 So we have that past. The Post 911 GI bill that we all enjoy and now it's the Forever GI bill, which is something that veterans are enjoying for the rest of their life. And they no longer have that cap, if memory serves me correctly, where they have 15 years post-military separation to use it or lose it. Not only that, but they can also pass that onto family members, children or their spouse if they so desire. So that's a wonderful thing. So, some of the things that we're looking at now that we would love to get everyone's support and you don't have to be a VFW member to contact your local federal legislator, whether it's from the House of Representatives or the Senate. Particularly the United States Senate right now, we need everyone's support to contact them and say, “axe the widow’s tax.”
Marc Garduno: 27:55 We have this tax that essentially when you're separated from the military, retired from the military they have the survivor benefit plan. Now this is an opportunity to have a portion of your retirement go towards this fund so that if the veteran meets his demise earlier than expected or at some point when that person is gone, the widow or the widower left behind, the surviving spouse has this financial support. Because once that person's gone the retirement is gone. But if they pay into that, the benefit is there for them. So, now they have this day where they say, “Hey, well spouses are also provided VIC. So, if that's the case, then that's money that should be offset from the survivor benefit. Whoa, hold on a second. The veteran paid into that plan, that money is there.
Marc Garduno: 28:56 VIC is an added benefit that could potentially go towards that surviving spouse. So those are two completely different things where one is a benefit and the other one is something that was already paid into. So that's the widows’ tax we went up there and we were fighting for that and everyone seems to be supportive of it because they understand it. The only consideration now is that for the 2020 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act, they didn't put it in there. So now, when they go back there and reconcile, the potential exists that they'll drop it as something that cannot be supported because of funding or whatever it happens to be. So please, we need assistance with that. We're also looking at Burn Pits. Here in Delaware, I'm trying to put together a survey so that we could get numbers to determine how many people are on the burn pit registry.
Marc Garduno: 29:48 A lot of these burn pits that were used in Southwest Asia gave out toxic fumes, toxic smoke. A lot of people are starting to get sick from that. So, we're trying to get ahead of the game so that we're not trying to fight an Agent Orange type battle here in 20 years when it comes to burn pits. We're also looking at veterans’ health care on a continuing thing. We're supporting the Commander John Hannon and Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 and that's specifically to provide more resources and assets to better the mental health program. Because I will tell you, Scott that one veteran committing suicide is just one veteran way too many. And although some numbers seem to indicate that the number is decreasing; quite frankly, when you look at it, they've essentially reached the plateau.
Marc Garduno: 30:38 It's not necessarily going up but it's not going down. So, it's reached a plateau and it just continues to move at that particular number. We need to do what we can to decrease that. Plus, let's take a look at how some of the medical cannabis could assist these veterans because we already know there are many States out there that have legalized it for medical marijuana usage for veterans. And that's showing that it's having a clear benefit to them. Then we think the VA should do everything they can to explore and to test and to come up with whatever it is that's needed to definitively determine that cannabis usage for medicinal purposes is something that should be authorized and put into use and that the VA can prescribe it and do all of the things. Now the VA can't even consider that as a form of treatment for mental health because it's still an illicit drug.
Scott DeLuzio: 31:32 Regardless of what's going on on the state level, the individual States that are making it legal for medicinal purposes, the fact is it's still illegal on the federal level. And so, the VA being a federally run organization is just not going to prescribe something that's illegal on the federal level at all. So, you mentioned another thing that hit home here. So, we had talked about the medical marijuana on a previous episode. And we also talked about the burn pits on a previous episode with a veteran who actually served with my brother in Afghanistan who is actually suffering from the side effects of the burn pits. He is battling with cancer that's a direct cause from the burn pits.
Scott DeLuzio: 32:30 It's terrible to think about an otherwise young and healthy person who is just trying to go about living their life and they're now dealing with a cancer that is basically spreading and causing all sorts of trouble for them. Fortunately, there in that particular veteran’s situation, they're young enough so that they're able to tolerate the higher doses of chemotherapy that are required. But like you said in 20 years obviously we'll all be 20 years older and we're not going to necessarily be able to deal with those high doses of chemo that we would need in order to battle all of that. And so, I know that the registry is a good first step. We need to get ahead of this so that it doesn't become another Agent Orange type of situation.
Marc Garduno: 33:28 Absolutely. You're absolutely correct. Absolutely. And you know, the Cancer is probably to the extreme but what about all of the other conditions like COPD and things that debilitate an individual that may not reach the level of cancer but the individual is fighting, combating and while they're having to suffer through all that, they're trying to continue on with their life going to a job, other career type work or whatever it is they happen to go into as a career and this is preventing them or debilitating them to a point where they are not able to be as successful and provide for their family the way they should. So, this is critically important, critically important. Outside of that, I would also like to mention that we're working on Voc Rehab. Now that there are no time limits or constraints when it comes to the Forever GI Bill in when they are using that or how long they have to use it, we believe that the same opportunities should be available for Voc Rehab, that a veteran can use Voc rehab at whatever point for the rest of his or her life.
Marc Garduno: 34:34 I think that's an important thing to also consider. And then lastly, as we talked about already, the transition program we're still working in that. I personally believe and we've mentioned it to the Senators here in Delaware that “here we have a veteran separating from military service with probably a secret security clearance there and then they separate and now all of a sudden they’re a security risk? So, in other words, we asked why can't a veteran receive a base-access pass for let's say you pick a number, let's say up to six months post-service and Department of Defense comes back and “security risk.” What? The individual just separated from the military and the next day they become a security risk, come on! And so, at that point, regardless of where they end up, whether it's near the base they separated from or back home, wherever that may be and they still have access to a military installation that they go there and access resources.
Marc Garduno: 35:36 I guarantee you there is not a TAP class out there, a Transition Assistance class where they attend prior to separation that is so full, they probably can’t help another two or three individuals. Get them enrolled in there so they know where the network is or who are the local service providers in this area now that they decided on where they're going to separate to or finally set up their home. So, those are the sorts of things that we're working on right now. I think the legislative victories that we've had over the last couple of years, plus what we're looking at right now is extremely important and I think that's what makes us, bar none, the premier veterans’ service organization out there in the country today that are actually getting out into the community and doing what we do best by advocating on behalf of all veterans regardless of gender, regardless of era in which you served, be it Vietnam, Korea, even during Desert Storm or post 9/11; it doesn't matter. We're doing everything we can to assist you to maintain the benefits that were promised to you and when needed ensure that we got the additional benefits and resources to help you because of the service that you gave for our country.
Scott DeLuzio: 37:01 That's absolutely great. And I love all of that, in terms of how you are getting out there and advocating for the veterans and everything like that. It's really important that there are organizations out there like the VFW, that are doing that type of work. One veteran on their own is not going to be able to move these mountains and banding together and having an organization like this will certainly help with all of this stuff. You've already listed off a number of victories that the VFW has had legislatively. So, I'm very happy to hear all of this and happy to know that there are organizations out there that are fighting for veterans and so that veterans don't feel like they're all alone when they get out of the military service.
Marc Garduno: 38:05 I was just going to mention that I mentioned before that we're doing this for all veterans, not necessarily those who are members. The benefits that we provide are for anytime you go into a veteran service office, you don't have to be a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars but if you so choose that and you're eligible that after you were provided that service and you felt that it was a good quality service, that by all means you should consider joining the Veterans of Foreign Wars so that we could continue our mission. Any individual, any service member that was eligible or would be eligible, provided they served in a combat theater of operation but in reality, what makes them eligible is that campaign metal. If they received the campaign medal for service, they did for eminent danger pay, servicing Korea for at a minimum of 30 consecutive days, 60 non-consecutive days,
Marc Garduno: 39:02 those are individuals who are eligible for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And I also want you to know that we have a supportive auxiliary out there and this auxiliary works hard to ensure that they provide the supplemental support in our mission to deliver those programs that are so important in supporting veterans and their families. The auxiliary is also out there and eligibility for that is being a part of the immediate family of a veteran, whether parents, a brother, sister, children or grandchildren. That's the extent of the eligibility surrounding that veteran in the immediate family.
Scott DeLuzio: 39:42 Okay, great. And so, those are the criteria for both of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the auxiliary program. Those are the criteria to become members. Where can people go to learn more about either finding a post in their area or how to join or how to support the VFW in their area?
Marc Garduno: 40:05 I would direct anyone primarily to our national website, which is the vfw.org right then and there are links up above along the top margin. You can click on the place, it says “Find a Post” and it goes by a city name or by your zip code and they'll pull up any VFW post who are there in your area and what services they provide or the individual could sign up to become an at large member at that same website. And there is a link there that says “Join” and there's a lot of other information there. There's also that ever popular list of member benefits, like insurance program, financial services, and access to the magazine with the VFW, a lot of tangible resources and member benefits that the individual receives just by virtue of that membership. But it's the intangible that I referred to earlier that are even more important in my opinion. If there's a local VFW post in your area, walk up to it when they're open, and say, “Hey, I'd like to get more information to see what I could do that could help you or what I could do to join.”
Scott DeLuzio: 41:19 These posts are there nationwide, there are posts all across the country but also around the world, if I'm not mistaken. Is that correct?
Marc Garduno: 41:28 Yes, that's absolutely correct. I'm glad you know that. We have about 6,200 posts worldwide. We have an entire department, which is, like I said, a state type entity. We have a department in the Pacific areas, which has posts in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Bangkok, and Cambodia, if I'm not mistaken, there's a post there. So, there are a lot of posts in overseas countries that are serving, ex-pats, veterans who decided to retire overseas or even the members who are serving in the military still overseas. And then we have an entire department over in Europe serving countries like Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Italy as well. So yeah, it's worldwide.
Scott DeLuzio: 42:21 So, that's great too because there are people who are serving or who have served or are serving and found themselves overseas and are no longer in the States. And they should also know that they're not forgotten. There are people out there who are going to be there to support them as well, even though they may find themselves in a foreign country and as they should be. So, thank you for all of that and thank you for sharing all of this background on the VFW and what you guys are all involved in. I think veterans of the more recent post 9/11 Wars would find themselves better off by reaching out to the VFW and other veterans’ organizations to get that support that they need. Help these organizations push forward these legislative priorities like you had mentioned before. Going back to what we talked about previously; especially, I would encourage the women veterans to reach out to these organizations, as well because they may just feel like it's a boys’ club and it's not and it shouldn't be either.
Marc Garduno: 43:45 So, that's correct. Absolutely correct. If I may, just one last thing, please visit that vfw.org because there's a lot of opportunity for assistance there. If you're a recently separated veteran and in need of something, whether it be mental health assistance, you can click there and get some information. Student veteran support and that we have a wonderful partnership with Sport Clips. They provide a hero scholarship that assists separating service people and the rank of E5 and below. Because even though the GI bill is wonderful, it really is, but it doesn't help the individual to the extent they may need. And so, that scholarship program is there. We also have a national home out in Michigan and these people provide assistance in the event an individual might need a little direction, may be in a financial crisis and they may be looking for a place where they can go for a respite and get their mind intact and the VFW National Home for Children in Michigan, that website is out there and I would encourage individuals to seek that information through there as well.
Scott DeLuzio: 44:58 All right, great. That's a lot of resources. I'm going to try to link to as much of this as I can in the show notes as well so that people can have a nice, easy place to find all of this information as well. So, thank you again, Mark for sharing all of this information and we look forward to seeing how this helps out the veterans and the VFW in particular. So, thank you. For anyone who's listening, if you want to find out more information about the VFW, check out the show notes. I'll try to link to as many of these organizations and programs and everything that we talked about today in the show notes and you can find more information there.
Scott DeLuzio: 45:42 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com we're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at DriveOnPodcast.