By Lillian Bowe
Rich Lewis served in the Air Force for 24 years as an aircraft mechanic, drill sergeant and then a flight engineer.
When Lewis retired in 2010, he wanted to help his community and veterans, so he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars and has been an active member in Portales for two years. VFW is the official nonprofit service organization for U.S.A. military veterans benefits.
Last June, Lewis became the Post Commander at the VFW and has a goal of making the organization a larger part of the community.
Lewis is from Fort Worth, Texas, and is currently a civilian employee at Cannon Air Force Base.
Why did you join the VFW?
The intent behind the VFW legislation on capital hill is to help veterans. It is the largest lobbying organization for veterans and they step in and help. The VFW does a whole lot for the community. We feed a lot of kids at Christmas that are at the homes and Halloween we open ours doors for the kids, too. A small organization can have a huge impact on a small community.
What is your goal as Post Commander?
Get Portales and the VFW integrated as one team. We are working to do that by working with the Boy Scouts. We are going out April 26 to clean up graveyards and cemeteries that have veterans in it. We are targeting one that just has veterans but everyone benefits. We will be cleaning the whole cemetery. There’s a three-fold purpose; we take care of our deceased veterans, we are helping out the Boy Scouts and we are helping out the Portales community. We want to be an active member of the community.
How do you join the VFW?
We have the VFW, which is the umbrella. You have to be a veteran of a foreign war to become a member. We also have the women’s auxiliary, and to be a member of that you must have a family member that served in the military and is eligible to join the VFW, then you can join. We are also starting a men’s auxiliary and the membership is basically the same as the women’s. All three of these entities serve the same common purpose; making the community better.
What charities does the VFW help with?
The VFW supports mostly veterans activities. Women’s (Auxiliary) does a combination of veterans and cancer activities. Men’s will do that and hospitals. We have a larger amount of people we can serve with these three entities.
What other events are the VFW planning for this year?
We are having a golf tournament on Friday out at Cannon and the proceeds will be going to help our current active veterans at Cannon, local retired veterans, and other members of the community in need. We will also be having an Easter breakfast on Sunday to help out the needy in our community with a good breakfast. We have a lot of events going on in April like our motorcycle rally, which is being done by the Women’s Auxiliary.