Sunday, November 11, 2018, is Veterans Day. At the eleventh minute of the 11th hour of this day we should all take a minute to remember our veterans, especially those who sacrificed all so that we can live in a free society.
To commemorate our veterans I am attaching below how the Elks started what is now the Veterans Administration. See below:
In 1917, the World was at war. The Order of Elks was only 49 years old. In April of that year, Grand Exalted Ruler Edward Rightor appointed a committee to study what the Order of Elks should do in this crisis. The Committee was ordered to present its findings to the Grand Lodge Session in July.
During the July Grand Lodge Session held in Boston, this Committee, headed by Past Grand Exalted Ruler John K. Tener, reported to the membership and recommended, "That the Elks give first consideration to the sick and wounded on the battlefields of France and equip base hospitals for their care; that the Order create a fund for war relief work".
The membership enthusiastically and unanimously approved a resolution appropriating one million dollars for the "War Relief Fund". This money was raised by our Brothers at the local Lodge level.
Grand Exalted Ruler Fred Harper, who was elected at the Boston convention, appointed an Elks War Relief Commission. With Past Grand Exalted Ruler John K. Tener serving as Chairman, the Commission began evolving toward the organization we have today: the Elks National Veterans Service Commission.
During World War I, under the auspices of the War Relief Commission, the Elks helped the nation to victory. Through the patriotism and generosity of our members, the Commission organized and equipped the first two base hospitals to reach France, Unit 41 staffed by faculty and alumni from the University of Virginia and Unit 46 with the University of Oregon faculty and alumni.
In 1918, to accommodate the maimed and wounded, the Elks built a 700 bed Reconstruction Hospital in Boston and gave it to the federal government. This hospital was the forerunner of the VA Medical Centers we have today. Another facility was scheduled for construction in New Orleans when the government decided it was not needed. That same year, the Order built a 72 room Community House to take care of families visiting the forty thousand soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman, Ohio.
During the war, the Salvation Army was severely handicapped in its great work for the servicemen by a lack of funds. To make sure this work continued, the Elks War Relief Commission and local Lodges of the Order undertook campaigns to raise funds for the Salvation Army. In addition, the Commission, at Christmas time, in 1918, gave the Army $60,000 to continue its work.
The Commission made forty- thousand rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans to disabled veterans who were ineligible for government help or were waiting for approval of their applications for assistance. This service was so effective that the federal government followed the Order's example; they set up a revolving fund and took over this activity. The GI Bill, which makes funds available to veterans for education, had it's genesis from this Elk program.
We can all be proud of this accomplishment and how it has grown.