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The biggest surprise for Butch Ferrell when he took on the role of commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars, North Hardin Post 10281 about a year and a half ago, was the time commitment.
The role required him to work eight to nine hours a day, he said.
“We’re busy all the time,” Ferrell said.
In his office at the Vine Grove VFW post, which has a membership of 953 and is the only VFW in Hardin County, Ferrell indicated numerous folders for the various programs and assistance offered by the organization.
Among those are the “Voice of Democracy” scholarship program for high school students, a program for orphaned children of veterans, a scholarship program for JROTC students, food and housing assistance for veterans and the Kid’s Fishing Derby, which has been an annual event since 1995.
The VFW also provides holiday parties for children, donates funds to community groups, visits assisted living facilities and welcomes home troops returning from deployment. Some of those returning soldiers, upon being greeted by the VFW, end up joining the organization, Ferrell said.
Ferrell might not have expected the time commitment, but he doesn’t mind it, either.
“It’s very rewarding for me,” he said, noting the organization has about 50 volunteers who are crucial to operations.
The Vine Grove resident has an appreciation for his role that has been cultivated over many years. He joined the VFW in 1999 and served on every committee before taking a run at the top spot.
His term ends July 1.
But it’s not just his experience with the organization, which he said actually goes back to 1966, when he joined a VFW after serving in the Army. His military experience figures into his appreciation.
Ferrell, like all other members of the VFW, is a combat veteran, having served in Vietnam in 1963-64 and 1965-66.
“I’m probably going to be the last Vietnam vet to hold this post,” he said.
The VFW, he said, provides assistance and a voice to veterans, something he didn’t have when he returned from Vietnam. It’s not just about the programs and services.
“Combat soldiers have a lot of problems,” Ferrell said. “So they can come and sit down with anybody here and talk about their problems.”
After his second tour of Vietnam, Ferrell left the Army. He returned in 1974 and retired in 1992.
In his term as VFW commander, Ferrell has seen an increase in relief requests, such as veterans seeking assistance getting groceries or housing. Requests went from one or two a month to about five a week, he said.
“If I can’t help them I want to put them in touch with resources that can,” Ferrell said.
Awareness of the VFW’s mission of helping veterans is sometimes clouded by misconceptions based on the fact that the post serves alcohol, he said.
“It’s not just a place to come and drink,” Ferrell said.
Leon Hachat, VFW junior vice commander, commended Ferrell on his interaction with the military at Fort Knox and called him a “good liaison.”
“He’s fantastic with the soldiers and also the community,” Hachat said.
Ferrell’s ability to develop rapport helps in his role as commander, Hachat said.
“He’s a people person, as far as I’m concerned,” Hachat said.
As far as Ferrell is concerned, the important thing is that veterans get the support and assistance they need, and he wants to do his best to accomplish that.
“I try to go above and beyond,” he said.
MORE ABOUT BUTCH FERRELL
City of birth: Akron, Ohio
Favorite music: All kinds, including “any kind of country”
Favorite books: Westerns, specifically Louis L’Amour; Mountain Man book series; and combat fiction
Hobbies: Camping, motorcycle riding and shooting shotguns