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.