It’s the oldest and largest veterans organization in Clark County.
And this Saturday, Grimes-Kohl VFW Post 1031 in Springfield will celebrate its 90th anniversary.
On April 4, 1923, local veterans formed the Hawthorn Post to obtain benefits for veterans and their families. It became the Theodore Grimes Post in 1928, in honor of the first Clark County soldier killed in World War I.
The first club room was established at Main Street and Lowry Avenue. The Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1935, and the post’s Drum and Bugle Corps became state champions four years later.
The name Kohl was added in 1946, to honor John Kohl, the first local casualty in World War II. He died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The next year, the Post moved to West High Street, and in 1952, the current property at 1237 E. Main St. was purchased from the Allen Tool Co. for $19,000.
Over the years, the post has grown, its bingo has expanded, and vehicles have been added to transport veterans to medical treatment. Current Commander Jerry Heck said they provide transportation for any veteran in Clark County to the Dayton VA Medical Center.
One significant change came in 2007, when the state law banning smoking went into effect. Heck says business dropped 30 percent, resulting in fewer dollars to donate. But over time, the situation has changed, with increased business and a family friendly atmosphere today.
He says “we’d be hard-pressed to to reinstate smoking (in the building) now.”
He also stresses VFW Post 1031 has always been very active in donating money to various local, state and national charities, and sponsoring youth groups like Venture Scouts.
The post also works closely with the 13 other veterans organizations and the various military units around Clark County. Post member Dave Bauer called it “veterans helping veterans.”
Today, VFW Post 1031 includes a little more than 1,000 regular, auxiliary and booster members. Heck paid tribute to “the people who came before us and built (the post) to what it is today.”
He points out the stewardship of the organization has shifted from World War I and II veterans to those who served in Korea and Vietnam.
“We need the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to come into the post and keep the tradition going,” he said.
Heck also expressed appreciation for all the community support the post has received over years.
Auxiliary Chaplain Shirley Campbell said the membership is a tight-knit group. “The camaraderie is unmatched anywhere else.”
Heck added, “it is a special bond.”
While membership in the VFW is restricted to honorably discharged veterans, the post regularly opens is doors to the general public, in particular for a pizza night the third Thursday of each month and for various dinners on Fridays, when the kitchen in the Canteen is open from 5 to 8 p.m.
This Saturday, the public is invited to attend the 90th anniversary celebration, starting at noon with an open house and social hour.
At 1 p.m. there will be a presentation and luncheon. Representatives of a number of community groups along with local dignitaries and state VFW officials will participate.