Day of Service unites VFW Post, Auxiliary and community members
Because of COVID-19, many events and activities were put on hold in Brainerd, Minnesota, and community members were hesitant to come together.
“People had been staying away from public gatherings,” said VFW Post 1647 Auxiliary President Sue Sterling. “It was disheartening to see our member attendance dwindle.”
Helen Doucette, Auxiliary Post Sr. Vice President and 45-year member, came up with an idea to host a freedom festival for VFW National Day of Service. She hoped the event would encourage the community to reconnect while celebrating the Post’s mission and goals.
“She is truly an inspiration,” said Sterling.
Doucette, along with VFW members, the local Disabled Veterans of America chapter and the city council worked together to organize Brainerd’s first-ever Armed Forces Day Freedom Festival on May 21. It required months of planning and extensive collaboration.
“This Freedom Festival was conceived as an auxiliary activity for raising awareness of our cause, but the Post worked with us every step of the way to make it the success it was,” said Sterling.
Local businesses also chipped in, donating goods and services to ensure people enjoyed the event. Despite gloomy weather, it was a cheerful and patriotic day that included face painting, caricatures, games for all ages, music, good food and drink and prize raffles.
Additionally, organizers used the event to celebrate tradition and teach younger generations about sacred customs like flag burning and flag folding ceremonies.
“Some kids asked questions when they saw the flag burning,” said Sterling. “One father was able to share with his son that this was how we show respect to the symbol of our country.”
During another ceremony, attendees learned how to fold a flag, what each fold represented and how it honored the person who served under it.
“It was heartwarming to witness an eight-year-old girl as she folded the flag with her father and to watch as adults learned, too,” said Sterling. “There was a lot of happiness that unfolded that day.”
Above all, Sterling was grateful to see how the event united so many. She hopes it serves as an example for other communities.
“The most encouraging facet of this event was the way everyone pulled together to make it work. Our VFW members worked together unselfishly to make it a success, and in doing that work, we strengthened the ties that hold us together,” said Sterling.
“Post 1647 proved that people are willing to work together for the good of all and to achieve our goals for veterans and their families.”
The VFW is proud to recognize Post 1647 and its Auxiliary Post for pulling off such a successful event to mark the inaugural VFW National Day of Service.