Veterans Day is upon us; a time to honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. On November 11, the nation pauses in silence in prayer; with ceremonies of remembrance and honor; and with patriotic events and opportunities for community service.
Observed as a public holiday on the anniversary of the end of World War I, Veterans Day is an occasion to honor service men and women for their patriotism and their willingness to serve and sacrifice for their country.
An estimated 18 million Americans were veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2018, according to the United States’ Census Bureau’s most recent report in 2020. Approximately 10 million are Catholic, with 1.4 million Catholics currently serving.
Among the Veterans Service Organizations that work to support those who have donned the military uniform is one that stands at the intersection of faith and service: The Catholic War Veterans of the United States.
With national, state and local post levels, the organization’s mission is to advocate and provide support for all veterans, their families and the veterans’ community. They do so through veteran services, charitable activities and assistance, and fellowship.
“We have Veterans Service Officers who, if a veteran has a problem, will lead them to the necessary place to help them out. We have people that go before our national leadership to interface with law-makers to provide our view on various issues. We have officers that partner with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion and assist fellow veterans in filing claims for services. We are focused on doing whatever we can to help our veterans,” said Mike Rang, who has been involved with the organization since 1972.
Currently the Deputy Vice Commander and Treasurer for the Catholic War Veterans at the state level, Rang, of Gettysburg, is tasked with recruiting new members.
He promoted the benefits, support and activities of the Catholic War Veterans in a recent interview for the Diocese’s “Candid Catholic Convos” podcast and The Catholic Witness. (Click here for podcast information and to listen to the November 6 program.)
The organization’s network of Veteran Service Officers assists veterans, particularly those who are wounded and disabled, in claiming VA benefits. Support also includes visits to VA and other hospitals; donations of clothing, personal hygiene products and media materials to those in long-term care; and holiday parties and celebrations.
Efforts focused on Americanism and Catholic Action include the placement of flags on veterans’ graves; sending letters and cards to those who have served; participating in parades and memorial services; partnering with parishes for special Masses and prayer services; and supporting military chaplains with donations of items. Promotion of the organization and honor for veterans is achieved through activities for youth, including poster/essay/oratory contests and scholarship grants.
Far and away, the organization’s primary focus is to support the needs of those who have served – whether that includes navigating VA benefits, looking for someone to talk to, or finding help for physical or mental health challenges.
“We will connect them to organizations that help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities. There are places to get help,” Rang stressed. “We’re not letting our veterans suffer. We have the American Legion, the AMVETS, organizations and people out there who can help a veteran in need. We don’t let them sit and suffer. We’re here to help…. In the military, we have a saying that you never leave your buddy behind, no matter what.”
Seeking New Members
Rang is working hard to recruit new members of the Catholic War Veterans, which has a rich history in the Church and in the nation. Msgr. Edward Higgins of Astoria, N.Y., founded the first Catholic War Veterans Post, traveling to Rome in 1935 to meet Pope Pius XI and receive his blessing for the organization. As a veteran himself, Msgr. Higgins sought to actively support the welfare of the United States and care for veterans and their families.
The organization was officially recognized by the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., in 1940. In August of 1984, President Ronald Regan signed legislation granting the Catholic War Veterans a Congressional Charter.
The organization provides services free of charge to members and other veterans who request its assistance.
In Pennsylvania, which is the largest department within the national organization with upwards of 1,600 members, Rang is looking to increase the ranks.
Membership is simple, he said: “As long as you are Catholic and a veteran, have served 90 days, were honorably discharged – whether you served in war, conflict or peace – you are able to join us.”
Devoted to welcoming new members into the fold, Rang is making himself personally available to anyone interested in a membership application for more information; contact him at 223-272-0438 or email@example.com. Through December 31, 2022, new members receive free membership for one year.
“We need to build our organization up, so that we can continue to help our veterans,” Rang said. “We don’t leave anybody behind.”
(Photos courtesy of the Catholic War Veterans of the USA.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness