After years of troubles with the Hermiston branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the post is history.
Oregon VFW officials on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20 and 21, held a final sale of whatever was left in the old VFW Hall, 45 W. Cherry Ave., Hermiston.
On the first day of the sale, the officials surrounded themselves with many items left behind and unclaimed by former post members. Stackable chairs, United States flags and Bradford Exchange eagles were just some of the many objects.
Even the building was for sale.
“It’s sad. I didn’t want this to happen. No one wanted this to happen,” said Dennis Pratt, state commander.
The Oregon VFW was in Hermiston “to help clean up this mess,” said Allen Anderson, state senior vice commander.
When speaking of cleaning up, he was not just referring to the physical items, but the Hermiston VFW. The local organization, he explained, was shut down by the national organization after years of troubles that brought investigations. The Department of Justice, the IRS and local police all were looking into the Hermiston veteran group’s affairs, he said.
Anderson described several allegations, from breaking bylaws, such as not being present for the installment of new officers, to theft of $75,000 from the Hermiston group’s account.
This is all disappointing, Anderson said, as he looked around at the folded flags and other items for sale. He added it was avoidable, as the Oregon VFW tried to help the Hermiston VFW stay open.
“It’s a tragedy, because you are losing a lot of history,” Pratt said.
He opened a book, “History of the Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars: 100 Year Anniversary,” to show a page devoted to the Hermiston VFW, Post 4750. The page describes activities, which the organization maintained starting at its beginning in 1945. Pratt and Susan Teruya, who were both at the sale, were credited on the cover of the book.
The book’s entry on the post ends with mention of its closure, May, 14, 2021.
The post was a “loose cannon,” Anderson said, which is why it needed closing. He said the state VFW filed the post’s back taxes and cleared up other problems. The bickering, the “out-and-out feud” resembled a “war zone,” the vice commander added, and it could not be rectified, despite efforts.
During the post’s suspension, Dale Pack worked closely with the post. As the state judge advocate, he was tasked to “keep people on the right track,” he said. He said he ran the post during the past summer and he did not see a way for the local post to continue.
Anderson added the post was divided and members were not committed to acting within the bylaws. He said members had “been kicked out of the VFW entirely” over actions at the post.
“What do you do?” he asked. “Do you let it turn until somebody is killed?”
He said he was not speaking metaphorically. He said he thought real bloodshed was possible.
“It was a volatile situation,” he said, with one member making threats against another. The sale was, then, a hopeful end to the group’s problems.
Pratt said the state organization is healthy overall, though there are some problem posts. He expressed a belief that the VFW was getting younger and is on the verge of renewal. He said he has hope for a new post formed in Hermiston, as someone already has approached him on the topic.