Local members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4750 of Hermiston said the state VFW leadership revoked the post’s charter.
The decision means members of the post are now “at large” members of the VFW and must have someone sponsor them if they want to join an adjacent post in Ione, Kennewick or Pendleton. According to Harold Roberts, a former post commander, the post has about $600,000 in assets, including its building, cash and equipment. Roberts said all of that now belongs to the VFW Department of Oregon.
“That money was raised by local veterans, for local veterans, and it needs to stay in the community,” he said.
The state post did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but a member of Post 4750 provided the Hermiston Herald with a copy of a letter dated May 17 from State Commander George Carroll, stating the charter had been revoked and the Hermiston post was no longer an official VFW post.
“If you have kept abreast of the evolving situation at the Post, it should not come as a surprise to you,” he wrote.
The decision comes after a tumultuous time for the Hermiston post. In February 2020, David Earl Bosley, the post’s quartermaster in charge of finances, was charged with six felony theft charges and two misdemeanors after the Hermiston Police Department investigated allegations of embezzlement of tens of thousands of dollars from the post. State court records show the case is pending after Bosley did not show for an arraignment in July.
Afterward, state leadership put the post on probation. According to the letter from Carroll, the team “weeded out” members who had been “grossly negligent” and worked hard to fix past errors. The post briefly came out from under its probation, but, according to the letter, afterward the post struggled to keep leadership positions filled and have a quorum at meetings.
“Sadly, this indicates the Post is not able to sustain a healthy membership that will work together,” the letter stated.
Roberts disagrees. He said after the post’s probation ended, he brought in eight new members — an 8% increase in membership. Their February 2021 meeting had about 20 members present, he said, which was more than enough for a quorum, and all leadership positions were filled. He said there also are younger veterans who joined who were making plans to work on forming partnerships with area resource providers.
“I got a call yesterday from a guy wanting to join, because one of my flyers was still existing at Les Schwab,” he said. “This is an active VFW.”
He said after a long period of lax oversight, it made sense for the state to step in and help the post get back on track after the embezzlement case. But they came in as “judge, jury and executioner,” he said, and local members were not consulted on anything, or told to “shut up and leave” if they didn’t like something.
Roberts said Carroll and other state leaders did not like American Legion Post 37, another veterans organization that has many of the same members. According to Roberts, after he allowed some American Legion members to speak at the VFW’s February meeting, he was notified by Carroll that the post was going back on probation and American Legion’s lease agreement to meet in the VFW building was terminated.
American Legion Post Commander Glenn Bradley confirmed the agreement was terminated by the state, over the objections of local VFW members.
At that point, Roberts resigned his position as post commander and Marvin Hamilton stepped into the role.
Hamilton said he had been a member of the VFW for 12 years but had not been very active for a while until Roberts reached out to him. He said he and other younger veterans had big plans and are disappointed they were never able to put in place, including coffee gatherings for veterans, help getting counseling, and work with CAPECO to provide food and other assistance.
“We tried to get that going but they shut us down before we were able to get started,” he said.
Jose Ortiz, the post’s quartermaster, also said it felt like the state leadership pulled the rug out from under them right as they were trying to get resources together that would have helped local veterans.
“Now we don’t have a stable place to say, ‘Come and meet with us,’” he said.
He said even if other posts, such as Pendleton, are willing to take in Hermiston-area members, there are elderly members who don’t drive.
Dennis Aiken, a member of the post since 2016, alleged the state VFW leadership had been told multiple times in years past of problems with the post, including the suspected embezzlement, and it is his belief they were hoping the problems got bad enough they would have an excuse to seize the post’s valuable assets.
He said contention and management problems in recent years had made the Hermiston VFW more of a bingo hall with an occasional VFW meeting than an organization that truly served veterans’ needs. He said he has been working with the Agape House instead when he finds veterans in need.
“Any real impact on veterans in this area will probably be positive as the loss of the post means the local contributors will have to find other charities that do, in fact, benefit veterans,” he said in an email.
Other veterans are highly concerned about the loss of the post, however, and said it provided a social structure and other help to veterans that will be lost. Hamilton, the post’s brief final commander, said he hopes people will call the national VFW organization and ask it step in to reverse the state department’s decision so Hermiston-area veterans who participated in combat are able to have a place to gather once again.
“If you’ve done time overseas, if you’ve been in action,” he said, “the only people who understand what you went through is the people who were over there, too.”