Hometown Hero Spotlight: The Blackwell VFW

by Charles Gerian

This week’s Hometown Hero Spotlight is shining on the Blackwell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2855.

The VFW is vital to Blackwell and serves not just local veterans, but the entire community.

Founded in 1946 and named after Ivan M. Swaim, a U.S. Army Veteran of World War I, the Blackwell VFW currently boasts a membership of 85.

Several members of the VFW met at the organization’s building on Ferguson to discuss the importance of the group within Blackwell.

“Our services include providing a color guard for local parades, hosting a Memorial Day service, and organizing a community lunch for Veterans Day,” said Adjutant Cory Ingram.

“We also place flags downtown during holidays and offer support to veterans and their families. Additionally, we host an annual holiday dinner for veterans, offer scholarships to local high school seniors who are related to veterans, and engage in the Patriots Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests for elementary and junior high students,” Ingram continued.

“We are also committed to assisting with veteran suicide prevention efforts.”

The VFW gives back to the community in several ways, noted Ingram.

“We sponsor youth sports teams, donate school supplies, contribute to local fundraisers, and are active members of the Blackwell Chamber of Commerce. We stand ready to assist all community members, not just veterans.”

The VFW also, popularly, hosts a pancake feed on the second Saturday of every month. All-you-can-eat pancakes for $5 from 7-10 a.m.

“We welcome all volunteers as well,” said Ingram, “regardless of military status. The VFW Auxiliary is always eager for volunteer help. Sherry Landers is the person for that. The Auxiliary does so much for us, their work and contributions are vital to what we are today.”

When asked how the community can better support the VFW, Ingram said:

“Support extends beyond financial contributions to include acknowledging the sacrifices made by our members and expressing gratitude.”

“The community can show support by attending VFW-hosted events, participating in the Veterans Day Parade, attending Memorial Day services, and keeping veterans and active service members in their thoughts. For many veterans, the battle doesn't end upon returning home.”

“The VFW acts as a way for veterans to connect with one another. We share stories, bond, and more importantly we are there for each other when we need it most. We have had several people- several veterans- reach out to us, or find us, and they tell us all they needed was someone who cared, someone to listen to them. There’s no telling how many lives you can save by just lending an ear,” said Ingram.

The Blackwell VFW also cares for the Veterans Memorial at the Blackwell Cemetary which makes note of all veterans buried locally.

The VFW also lead the charge on having Blackwell registered as a Purple Heart City. The City of Blackwell was officially recognized in 2020 thanks to the efforts from Ingram and John Hoogendoorn.

Blackwell was Oklahoma’s 13th Purple Heart City.

The purpose and meaning of a city/community to being called a Purple Heart City is to honor and remember military personnel wounded or killed in combat with hostile forces.

The Purple Heart is specifically a combat decoration and it is our nation's oldest military medal.

It was first created by General George Washington in 1782 and was then known as the Badge of Military Merit. It is the nation's oldest military medal.