VFW Post 8905: a hub for Cypress veterans
Cigarette smoke clouds the air, beer bottles clink on the bar, football players silently run on the screen of the huge television in the corner and the jukebox plays classic rock and country music over the low din of conversation and laughter.
But the Thompson-Patton-Zahn Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8905 isn't a typical bar.
"People think the VFW is just a bunch of old vets sitting around drinking beer. But it's more than that. Half of us don't drink," said Tugboat Taylor, who was in the Marines from 1964 to 1968.
"We don't go into bars," said Gwen Fraser, who, with her husband Terry, a member of the men's auxiliary, goes to the VFW a couple times a week. "We come here to visit. There are a lot of good people here, people who will give you whatever you need. You just don't find that often anymore."
The VFW gives vets a place to be comfortable with people who have shared common experiences and to give back to the community, just as they'd given to their country on foreign battlefields years before. The post is at 21902 Hempstead Highway, Cypress.
"When I'm talking to another vet, and I say something, he hears what I'm saying different than a non-vet does," said Jack Andrews, post commander. Andrews was an infantry corporal in the Marines from 1967 to 1969 who has two Purple Hearts from being shot in one hip and taking shrapnel in the other. "He understands what I'm trying to say, where others wouldn't."
At the VFW, vets can talk with soldiers from World War II on, said Perry Walker, who served in the Army from 1967 to 1970. The conversation is rarely about the military. "It's just like a family. We do discuss the military, but it's a family thing."
History of the post
The post had 16 members when it was charted and named after Lt. Arthur J. Thompson in August 1944, said Paul Kermit, a founding member and World War II vet. Thompson had recently been killed in World War II. Today, the post has about 350 members, the women's auxiliary 140 members and the men's auxiliary about 20.
It does have "quite a few" newer members from Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but they're not around very often because they have families and they're busy working, Andrews said. But they do come to the meetings.
The post was in the middle of a field in a community with little to do for entertainment, so the community met at the post. Today, the community still meets there, even though the post now is by a major thoroughfare, U.S. 290, and is surrounded by businesses.
The post, like others that can only serve beer and wine, is open to the public. Its members try to include the community in everything it does, including its Friday night events, the annual barbecue cook-off, New Year's party, Fourth of July celebration and the yearly golf tournament. The post also donates its hall to organizations holding fundraisers and rents it for events.
"This is a community post," said Terry Fraser.
"People from the community have been coming here for a long time, and they've really done a tremendous amount of work for us," Andrews said. "So, we try to include the community in everything we do. And someday, one of their family members may qualify to join."
U.S. citizens who served honorably in the Armed Forces and in an overseas conflict are eligible to become a member of the VFW. The VFW men's auxiliary is open to husbands, widowers, fathers, sons, grandsons, brothers and half brothers of eligible VFW Post members. Auxiliary members musts be at least 16 years old. There's also a women's auxiliary for those related to VFW post members. The auxiliaries help maintain the post and raise money.
The events are inexpensive — the $5-per-person price for the monthly dances hasn't changed in more than 20 years - because the members want to keep it affordable so more people can come.
And they do.
The dances bring in about 200-300 people, teenagers dancing beside 80-year-old couples to country-western songs. The Tuesday and Thursday bingo games average about 100 people each night.
The Thompson post merged with the Patton post, which was by Texas 6 and Interstate 10. In 2004, it merged with the Chas Zahn Jr. Post in Garden Oaks.
Money raised by the post goes back to the community, Andrews said.
It donates to the local Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Toys for Tots, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, high school scholarships and the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, Mich.
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