The effort to start a VFW post on the East Side is moving forward.
Only nine more veterans are needed to meet the membership requirement of 35 to secure a charter for the new Buffalo post, said State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, who held a news conference Tuesday at the Freedom Memorial at Grider Street and Northland Avenue to announce the progress.
Kennedy used the occasion to call attention to the void left behind when Private Flemming Post 8747, Veterans of Foreign Wars, turned in its charter in the late 1980s. He said that it was the city's only VFW post focused primarily on African-American veterans.
Since it closed, many city-dwelling veterans of foreign wars -- minority or not -- have had to go outside Buffalo to get to a post.
"The fact is that the entire East Side neighborhood has lost a VFW post when the Private Fleming Post closed, and we want to get one back," Kennedy said. "Vets from the East Side are well-served by VFW posts in the suburbs, but our goal is to make a VFW post easily accessible for all veterans no matter where they live."
Only two African-American-focused posts exist in the city, both on the East Side and both American Legion: Bennett-Wells Post 1780 and Jesse Clipper Post 430. Plans for the new VFW post were announced in January and spearheaded by two women: Georgian Davis and Sandi Williams.
Davis is a member of American Gold Star Mothers and the mother of Nathaniel Jones, a seaman apprentice in the Navy who was killed in the turret explosion on the USS Iowa on April 19, 1989. He had just turned 22. His uniform, a picture of him and other items are on display in a memorial to him at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park museum. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Williams, an Army veteran who served in Korea and Germany and at Fort Hood, Texas, was the other woman to lead the charge from the start. She is no longer a part of the project.
"I hope to see a VFW post on the East Side in the near future because it's greatly needed," was all Williams would say when contacted Tuesday.
Earlier, in an email to those interested in the proposed post, she wrote that "contrary to any upcoming public announcement(s) and/or press conference(s) in regards to the forming of a new VFW Post in Buffalo, I am NOT involved."
The email further read that any applications that were submitted to her will be turned over to Dave Czarnecki, past 6th District VFW commander. He will be contacting applicants. And she noted that those who want their applications returned should contact her by Thursday.
Kennedy would not speak publicly about Williams' withdrawal from the effort but did say that "the one goal is to get the East Side VFW post established for the vets who sacrificed so much for our freedom."
Of the 35 veterans necessary to secure a charter for a new VFW post, 25 of them cannot be members of other VFW posts, officials said. And once the charter is secured for the new VFW post on the East Side, Kennedy said, its leaders will work with Debbera Ransom, founding commander of a new AMVETS post that focuses on African-American veterans. A joint location will be considered for both organizations.
For more information on the proposed East Side post or how to become a member, contact Kennedy's office at 826-2683 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call Davis at 491-8096, or Czarnecki at (202) 531-3190.