Supporting those who serve

Greenwood VFW Post 5864 Commander Steve Milbourn shares of the post’s efforts to assist veterans in need across the Southside

Greenwood VFW Post 5864 Commander Steve Milbourn is always prepared to help veterans in need in any way the VFW can. *Photos by Nicole Davis

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) isn’t like it was used to be. After WWII, servicemen returned home and joined the organization designed to help veterans and their families while promoting education on patriotism.

With each generation, servicemen and women return home, turn their focus to their families, jobs and busy lives. It takes longer and longer for them to join veterans organizations such as the VFW.

Greenwood VFW Post 5864 Commander Steve Milbourn is no stranger to that concept. He signed up for VFW membership while he was still overseas serving in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Phan Rang, South Vietnam. However, when he returned home to Indiana in October of 1967, his focus was on his job, college, then-new wife Patti and child. A few years later, he made time to utilize his VFW membership and has remained active ever since.

“The veterans of today are taking a little longer to come forth and volunteer,” Milbourn said. “We do have a good core, on my staff I have about 12 young veterans. There are another 12 – 15 of Vietnam and Korean War veterans. It’s a transition. It’s taking place but it’s taking longer to get everybody in.”

In the meantime, Milbourn aims to continue the mission of the VFW and serve the veterans and their families who are in need in his Southside community. In his third year as commander of the Greenwood post, he recently earned the appointment of National Aide-de-Camp to the VFW National Commander-in-Chief Keith Harman. This honorary appointment signifies outstanding service to the post or state VFW, going beyond the call of duty.

The Buddy Poppy, trademarked by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is given out VFW posts across the nation each Memorial and Veteran’s Day as a fundraiser to benefit veterans and their families.

In a letter, National VFW Adjutant General Brian Duffy stated, “I am sure you will continue to serve your Post and Department as National Aide-de-Camp with dignity and honor, both to yourself and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”

Milbourn said, “It’s not really about me. It’s about showing a member of our post is doing well, which means the post is doing well. It’s a nice recognition that both the state and VFW say this guy’s doing a good job.”

Milbourn is on the job seven days a week, always on call to offer assistance to veterans and their families. From July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017, the Greenwood post donated more than $100,000 to charitable causes in the community. Nearly $50,000 of that was to help veterans and their families with proceeds from the Buddy Poppy Relief Fund.

Each Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, volunteers from the VFW take Buddy Poppies, artificial flowers trademarked by the VFW, to local businesses and offer them to the community while asking for donations. The Greenwood post brings in roughly between $20,000 to $22,000 each year through those donations, Milbourn said. Anywhere from 35 to 40 volunteers will be at it again this Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, setting up at local businesses from 9 a.m. until 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

With that money, the post is able to provide financial support to veterans and their families. Those who have proof of an honorable discharge or that they are directly related to a veteran can come to the VFW and request assistance. Often times, this is in the form of utilities, gas money or even partial rent. However, Milbourn said he is only authorized to give $150 per person.

“That’s not a lot, but if you divide 150 into that number ($48, 949), that’s a lot of veterans,” he said. “That’s helping roughly 300 veterans. Our own members, we can do a little more, but not much.”

Milbourn said the post gets three to four requests per week, up to 125 people per year. At first, they only served residents of Johnson County, but have expanded that territory to include the area up to the Ernie Pyle VFW on S. East Street, to State Rd. 37 and I-74. They try to keep track of where each request is from, and who recommended they contact their post. If the VFW can’t help, Milbourn will recommend other resources which could.

In addition to the financial assistance, the Greenwood post makes sure it participates in additional VFW projects throughout the year, such as the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essay contest for high school and middle school-aged kids, respectively. Milbourn makes an effort to keep not only his post, but the community informed through the post’s Website, Facebook page and newsletter.

“If people don’t know what you’re doing, they still have a tendency to think if they came to theVFW, it’d be a dark room, smoke filled, with veterans telling war stories,” he said.

Though he enjoys his role as commander, Milbourn is in the process of training others how he does the job, to keep the philanthropical efforts going long after he leaves. The post is also in the process of reviewing plans for a piece of property and new building for the Greenwood post, which they hope to know more soon.

“Hopefully we’ll go forward from there,” he said. “That will be my highlight as commander.”