VFW Operation Uplink

Brittany Kuecker is a student at South Dakota State University (SDSU), where she is working towards a bachelor’s degree while working at a hotel. A member of the Florence/New Helgen Lutheran Church, Brittany Kuecker is also a life member of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Established in 1914, the Ladies Auxiliary aims to serve U.S. army veterans in honor of the sacrifices that men and women in uniform have made on behalf of the country. Members support veterans and their families through fundraising and a range of volunteer and educational programs and activities. The Ladies Auxiliary is a proud supporter of the VFW Operation Uplink, a calling program that helps deployed military service members stay in touch with loved ones at home for free. The program began by providing calling cards to deployed troops and moved on eventually to hosting Free Call Days.

On Free Call Days, deployed service members can make free phone calls to the United States and other home-base locations. Since its 2006 inception, Free Call Days through Operation Uplink have provided service members with more than 7.3 million free phone connections. Donations from VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members, corporate sponsors, and private donors support the program.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Throughout her high school years in Florence, South Dakota, Brittany Kuecker studied hard. She graduated with a B average and earned acceptance to South Dakota State University. A well-rounded student, she also participated in several extra-curricular activities, chief among them the Oral Interpretation team, earning four varsity letters for her excellence in inter-scholastic competitions. She also participated on the gymnastics team. Heavily involved in community activities outside school, Brittany Kuecker also holds Life Membership in the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

At the very end of the 19th century, veterans returning home from the Spanish-American War and the insurrection in the Philippines found no medical care to help them deal with wounds received in combat. In addition, there were no pension benefits for veterans who fought in America’s wars. They began to form organizations to represent them in their fight for medical and other benefits. From humble beginnings in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the various groups formed a nationwide organization, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), which boasted almost 200,000 members by 1936.

The VFW has been influential in many of the decisions that had tremendous impact, not only on the state of veterans’ benefits, but arguably the state of American society. For instance, it was instrumental in the development of what is now the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), a cabinet-level government agency. It has acted as a liaison between its members, all of whom have served in uniform overseas, and the VA. It has worked with the VA to locate veterans’ hospitals and other service centers, and to create a national system of cemeteries for veterans.

One of the most significant programs endorsed by the VFW, as well as other veterans’ organizations, was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill, passed by Congress in 1944. The bill provided returning service members with college tuition assistance, low-cost home mortgages, and low-interest loans to go into business. The VFW recently was successful in its encouragement of Congress to pass a G.I. Bill for the 21st Century.