V.F.W. Goes Gender-Neutral, Recognizing Female Veterans
By Richard A. Oppel Jr.
When the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States secured its congressional charter in 1936, “veterans” were usually men and the spouses of those who fell in battle were “widows.” That, of course, is now very different. (Indeed, even during World War II several hundred thousand women served in the United States military, including nurses and members of the Women’s Army Corps.) Now, more than 15 percent of active-duty United States service members are female. So the V.F.W. is changing, too, winning congressional approval to alter the wording of its charter. No longer is it “a national association of men” who served in wartime; it is one of “veterans.” And it is no longer to assist “widows” — rather, “surviving spouses.” The changes, approved at the national convention, were made in bills just passed by the House and Senate. “We didn’t change our congressional charter to be politically correct,” the V.F.W. National Commander, John W. Stroud, said in a statement. “We changed it because being an eligible service member or veteran is what’s important to our great organization, not one’s gender.”