Newsletter Articles

Trivia – The Commander in Chief

Commander in Chief

By Carl Kurfess 

A timely reminder following a period of discussion of the powers of the Presidency reminds us that the President of the United States, is also the Commander in Chief of all the Armed Forces. Article II, Section 2, Clause I of the Constitution, states: “…the President of the United States is commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces”. The President possess the ultimate authority, but no “rank”, maintaining civilian control of the military. 

Starting with George Washington in 1789, a number of Presidents have had military experience, but this is not a requirement. As of 2016, no member of the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Coast Guard has yet been elected President. The most frequent military experience is Army/Army Reserve with 15 presidents, followed by State Militias at 9, Navy/Naval Reserve at 6 and the Continental Army with 2 presidents serving. Eight presidents served during World War II, while seven served in the military during the American Civil War. 16 presidents have served in the rank of 0-6 or higher. Three, George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower, have served as Generals of the Army. 

The Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 codified the default operational chain of command, running from the President to the Secretary of Defense, and from the Secretary of Defense to the combatant commander. While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other military officers, he does not have operational command authority over the Armed Forces. However, the chairman does assist the President and the Secretary of Defense in the exercise of their command functions. 

Traner Bros Vietnam Christmas

Traner Bros Vietnam Christmas

Reflecting on Christmas Day 1968. Dave’s unit was somewhat newly arrived in Vietnam while I had spent 16 months in country with most of that time in the field. I was what you’d call a seasoned trooper while I knew my brother was in for a steep learning curve as he was in a reserve unit. Today those reserve units are as good as any regular Army units but not so much in 1968. His unit was on the DMZ in I Corp while I was stationed in III Corp with the 11th Armored Cav in the lower 1/3 of Vietnam. I decided to see him for Christmas and got the necessary orders cut. Getting there was a challenge. A Huey ride to somewhere, buying a beer to some aircrew heading North and two days later I arrived after some interesting stops on the way. I got there Christmas morning in time for some of the best chow I’d had in Nam. Christmas dinner there was even better. That unit may have been green but they had the best cooks in Nam. I damn near kidnapped one for our unit. My brother and I headed off to the beach after breakfast. Of course, the temp was probably approaching 100 by 10am, and his unit was stationed near the South China Sea with white sands and warm water. After swimming for a while, I was floating around (literally) when I heard my brother yelling for help. I looked around and saw him several hundred meters offshore with a GI who had ventured too far out and was in the process of drowning. I swam out and took over the life saving duties while he went in for help. He returned with another guy and an air mattress and the 4 of us made it to shore. It was a close call and looking back, we were both minutes from drowning. 

Thank goodness we had grown up swimming in rivers and were both strong swimmers. So what do you do for an encore? Well, you find some beer, get a case of M79 grenades, go back to the beach, drink the beer, toss the empties into the surf, and blow them up with the thumper. I think we paced our drinking with our grenades so it came out pretty close. Back to the chow line for a Christmas meal and packing my gear for a 5am departure back to Blackhorse Basecamp. I doubt many can match that Christmas day in 1968 which remains a vivid memory after all these years. 

Jim Traner

News from Department of Washington

News from Department of Washington

To say “Time has flown by” would be a welcomed phrase for 2020. I don’t think there is anyone that would say they’re sad to see the end of this year. What is sad is how fast this command year is going. Not being able to travel much has really focused my efforts on upgrading both the Service Division and HQ. Lots of changes have taken place since installation; from our website to our Service Division restructure, we have been moving our Department into the 21st Century, finally. You’ll notice on our website “real-time” reporting; “How to” links; as well as all the information you need from all our committee chairs. We enhanced HQ with FOUR new heating and air cooling systems and upgraded our internet service. Our Zoom account was not only purchased but due to an overwhelming amount of participants, we upgraded to an “unlimited” account. A great problem to have. Now, National is trying their best to support not only our Department but ALL Posts that are having financial “challenges.” 

Midwinter is still a “go” for now, but for those that don’t want to travel, or feel uncomfortable around others, all of midwinter will be broadcast on Zoom. The midwinter banquet is not going to happen during midwinter. It will be rescheduled for Spring if we’re able to hold it. 

Our Department’s 100th birthday is coming up, and for now, we plan on having a 20’s ball! Our birthday is on May 12th so our gala is scheduled for the night of the 8th. Let’s hope we can hold it! 

That’s where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Let’s hope 2021 allows us to get back to what we do as a VFW: taking care of our Veterans, their families, but more importantly each other! Please, stay healthy, stay safe, and have a great New Year! 

Draping the Charter for Fallen Comrades

Rene Blumenfeld
Rene Blumenfeld 

We lost two of our long time Post 8870 comrades in November. Rene Blumenfeld, age 92, of Edmonds, Washington passed away on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. At this writing your editor has no further information about Rene. He had been a member of our Post for post for some 25 or more years and was a very regular attendee at post meetings most of that time. 

Bob Crawford
Bob Crawford 

Bob Crawford was a retired Navy pilot with terminal rank of Lt. Commander. Bob served in the Vietnam war. Past Commander Jim Traner tells us: “He ran a small aircraft charter operation out of Anacortes and delivered mail to some of the smaller islands.” Bob was our Poppy Chair for quite some time and we have missed his service in that role since his health began to fail a couple of years ago. 

Virtual Post Meeting Held in November

We held what has become our usual “virtual” post meeting on November 18 in the Zoom format. Among other topics, we discussed our efforts at another “virtual” poppy drive for Veterans Day, which were much less successful than we experienced for Memorial Day. Total revenues this time were less than $ 2,000. It looks as though there are just too few charitable dollars available to meet the needs of all of the organizations looking for funds. 

On a better note, our call for donations for our Post general fund was quite successful and we were able add over $ 3,000 to that fund, making Post operations secure for a while. 

While we hope and are planning for a return to our traditional store front fund raising for Memorial Day 2021, it looks as though we may have access to at least one of our better producing stores. More on that later, but meanwhile, we want everyone to think about other ways we might replenish of Relief Fund going forward to be able to go on helping veterans in need, and support our other causes if Covid is still restricting us next spring. 

Attendance: Head counts at Post meetings of late have not met our usual experience for regular meetings held at the Legion Hall. Our numbers have been running around 15, mostly the Post officers. 

You should all be receiving the link to allow you to log into the Zoom meetings and we encourage you to join us. Put your VFW cover on, log in and join us! For December, the format will be a casual ‘Holiday’ gathering, instead of the regular Post meeting format, at the usual time on December 16, so grab your favorite beverage and snacks and we will all kick things around on line. Watch your email for your invitation with the link. 

Christmas Toy Drive – Covid Style

Christmas Toy Drive - Covid Style

Since we are unable to hold our regular VFW/Legion Christmas Party (a disappointment to all) we will also not be able to hold our annual toy drive for the Edmonds Toy Box program for underprivileged children. For many years we have gathered a substantial number of unwrapped toys as part of our celebration, for distribution to children of families in need. 

Christmas Toy Drive - Covid Style

Chaplain Dan Doyle contacted Teri’s Toy Box owner Teri Soelter in downtown Edmonds and arranged to place a Box in the store marked for VFW’s Toy drive. The idea is to encourage store customers to purchase an extra toy while shopping and place it in the box. Doyle is delivering those toys to the Edmonds Toy Box and reports collecting enough to fill two garbage bags at pick up time the first week. Post Surgeon Jay Hansen designed a sign for the box, Post Commander Rose Gilliland decorated the box and delivered it to the store. 

In the photo above, Past Commander Mike Denton is with owner Teri Soelter after dropping A few new toys in the box. 

Everyone is encouraged to visit Teri’s Toy box at 420 Main St in downtown Edmonds, to help us make some kid’s Christmas brighter. Here is an opportunity to both support a long time local business and help underprivileged children at the same time. Just select and purchase a toy for any age range and place it in the box, located adjacent to the store’s point of purchase. It is a real “feel good” moment. (May as well pick up some last minute items for the kids and grandkids at the same time!)

Large Grant from Anonymous Donor

Large Grant from Anonymous Donor

Veterans Plaza & Relief Fund to Benefit 

We are very excited to announce that the Post has received a large grant for the Edmonds Veterans Plaza and for our relief fund! A benefactor who donated to the Plaza earlier was contacted by Ron Clyborne regarding a new project for the facility (details on that project to be forthcoming). The donor asked if we had any other needs and was told that we were short $15,000 in our relief fund due to a disappointing virtual poppy drive. The result is a check deposited the other day by Jim Traner in the amount of $ 40,000; $25,000 for the Plaza project and $15,000 to flesh out the relief fund. With the $ 1800 raised in our virtual poppy drive, this brings our fall relief fund revenues to just under $ 17,000. Many thanks to Ron for his initiative and to the anonymous donor for his amazing generosity! 

Post 8870 Veterans Day Observance

Post 8870 Veterans Day Observance
Chaplain Doyle with our color guard

The pandemic once again interfered with our traditional Veterans Day activities, with poppy distribution and big gatherings at the Edmonds Veterans Plaza cancelled.

Nevertheless, Veterans Day could not go unobserved, so a group of Post members gathered on the Saturday morning of Saturday, November 7 and, led by Commander Rose Gilliland marched from the American Legion Hall to the Veterans Plaze behind our national ensign and our VFW and Legion Post flags. A small group of Post members, family and friends enjoyed a short presentation on the meaning of the day from Post Chaplain Dan Doyle, followed by a few remarks from our artist in residence, Mike Reagan. Mike once again spoke of the experience of a comrade in Vietnam dying in his arms, a story that cannot fail to move those listening. 

In the background are the tents of the vendors of the Edmonds Saturday Market. 

Post 8870 Veterans Day Observance

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! To Complete Veterans Plaza Kiosk Data

Edmonds Veterans Plaza Kiosk Data Needed

We would like to complete the Information Kiosk at the Edmonds Veterans Plaza by inputting data for each dedicated veteran. We created Online Forms for this purpose. Please help us! 

If you have purchased any of the several types of memorial spaces in the plaza for either yourself or other veterans, living or deceased, please select one of the Forms below and use its link to enter requested data for each honoree. 

The Edmonds Veterans Plaza Kiosk team is happy to announce that the kiosk is now loaded with the veterans’ basic information excerpted from the memorialized pavers and benches. Some of the veterans dedicated also have provided additional information and photos. You can go to the plaza and check out to see if you, your friend or family member is showing up. The Memorial ID and the map on the screen can help users to locate their pavers, etc. 

The team will continue the effort to add more information and edit if needed. Please see the online version of the kiosk here (In other words, you can do the checking from your home remotely, too!): 

You are welcome to complete one of the forms below. Or send the veterans’ information and photos to Also use the same email to correct the existing information on the kiosk. See the form below for what types of information we can use. Although ideal, it doesn’t have to be complete. Please use this format and save the committee the effort of following up with you individually! 

Please select one of the Forms below and use its link.

  • Form A: For those who have a Google account**. Only Google account holders can upload photos directly from the form. Prepare the photos (Read Photo Specification*) and start the form below. —> 
  • Form B: For those who do not wish to have a Google account. We will send a separate email requesting photos later. Please go ahead and fill the form below. —> 

Either way, you will be requested (but not required) to provide up to 2 photos. *Photo specification: Ideally optimized for 400w X 500h in pixels at 72 DPI and JPG (.jpg) format is preferred (up to 10 MB per photo in size allowed). You may want to start preparing them before you start filling the form. If you do not know how to do this, do not worry but go ahead and upload photos as they are. 

** To create free Google account: (If you use Gmail or Google Calendar, you already have a Google account.) You can create it by visiting:

From the Book Shelf

They Were Soldiers by Joseph L. Galloway

by Mike Denton 

They Were Soldiers showcases the inspiring true stories of 49 Vietnam veterans who returned home from the “lost war” to enrich America’s present and future. 

In this groundbreaking new book, Joseph L. Galloway, distinguished war correspondent and New York Times bestselling author of We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young, and Marvin J. Wolf, Vietnam veteran and awardwinning author, reveal the private lives of those who returned from Vietnam to make astonishing contributions in science, medicine, business, and other arenas, and change America for the better. 

For decades, the soldiers who served in Vietnam were shunned by the American public and ignored by their government. Many were vilified or had their struggles to reintegrate into society magnified by distorted depictions of veterans as dangerous or demented. Even today, Vietnam veterans have not received their due. Until now. These profiles are touching and courageous, and often startling. 

They include veterans both known and unknown, including: 

  • Frederick Wallace (“Fred”) Smith, CEO and founder of FedEx 
  • Marshall Carter, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Justice
  • Eileen Moore, appellate judge who also serves as a mentor in California’s Combat Veterans Court 
  • Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell 
  • Guion “Guy” Bluford Jr., first African American in space 

Engrossing, moving, and eye-opening, They Were Soldiers is a magnificent tribute that gives long overdue honor and recognition to the soldiers of this “forgotten generation.” (With thanks to Jim Traner for bringing this book to my attention)er