By Emily Drooby
A door that’s always open is one with the Catholic War Veterans and Auxiliary of the United States of America.
You may not have heard of them, but they rely on their Catholic faith to help veterans, especially those struggling monetarily, physically, or even mentally.
Now, they’re hoping to recruit you.
“We’re trying to grow both organizations at one time,” said National Commander David Crum.
The group is recruiting for their two divisions. There’s one division for military veterans and then there’s one for family and the need is great. David says 20 years ago, they had more than 250,000 members.
“Now, we are about 8,000 combined,” David says.
They’ve seen a large loss of members. This year, about 100 national members passed away.
The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that only 1 percent of Americans have served or are serving in the military. Only 25 percent of them are Catholic, according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
The group started in the Diocese of Brooklyn by Monsignor Edward Higgins, with the first members coming from his parish, Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, Queens.
Now, 86 years later, the headquarters resides in Bellerose, Queens. They do a lot for others. For example, they provide funerals for impoverished veterans, help deal with the notoriously difficult VA issues and provide a safe space to talk and be heard, which is crucial for those who are struggling mentally.
“They can come to our meetings,” says John O’Shea, the Department Commander of New York. “After the meetings, again there’s the comradeship, the ‘hey, I went through that, it’ll pass,’ or ‘maybe I went to therapy, maybe you should go to therapy, because it helped me, it’ll help you.’ That’s the things we have to put out there.”
While members must be Catholic, they still help everyone.
“We don’t care what military branch you were in, what religion you are, what color you are,” David says. “Our job is to help veterans.”
In order to continue this important work, they need new and young blood. Now, they’re doubling down their recruitment efforts using targeted mailings, attending events outside of churches, and even working with bishops across the state.
For more information or if you or anyone you know would like to join, check out: https://wp2.cwv.org/ They are holding their national convention for members this August in Astoria.