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Valuing Our Veterans

VFW Post 3622 raises awareness for the challenges local veterans face By Christian Weaner | Photo courtesy Tom Chaney

VFW Bonners Ferry

A warrior does not return from battle the same as they were when they left. That is a reality that Michael Spurgeon, U.S. Air Force veteran and senior vice commander of Bonners Ferry’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3622, knows well. “No matter which conflict you were in, you cannot just be in conflict and then come home,” Michael said. “You don’t just take your boots and your helmet off and become the same Joe Schmo or Jane Doe that you were before you left. It doesn’t work—you change.”

Michael served in the Air Force from 1966 through 1988, making multiple deployments to Vietnam during his time in the military. He remembers the challenges of returning to civilian life after his years of service. Along with the camaraderie the VFW provides, helping others through those difficulties is why Michael participates.

“Having friends and meeting different people who have had some of the same experiences I did [is what I enjoy the most],” Michael said. “And then being able to help with some of the other individuals in the county that, for one reason or another, aren’t coping with life here successfully—those are the biggest two reasons [I joined].”

Michael grew up in Bonners Ferry but spent much of his service time deployed overseas or on bases in Florida and Texas. He eventually came back to North Idaho to be with his father, who was sick, and ended up staying in the area.

About 10 years ago, Michael began to take on leadership positions not only in the VFW but in Bonners Ferry’s Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and American Legion posts as well. In addition to his role with the VFW, Michael is also the commander of the local DAV and is a quartermaster in the American Legion.

Holding these positions gives Michael opportunities to serve the large population of veterans and their families in Boundary County.

“In all [that we do], our basic function is to help any of the veterans in the area that need help and their families that need help if we can,” Michael said.

“The main mission of the VFW, the American Legion and the DAV are basically the same,” he added. “Their main function is to help the less advantaged service people.”

Some of the services VFW Post 3622 can provide include loaning medical equipment or driving a veteran to and from a doctor’s appointment in Spokane. Bonners Ferry’s VFW also stays active in the community by helping with events, sponsoring scholarships for local students and donating money to Boundary County School District’s Alpha+2130 robotics team.

One upcoming event that Michael and his fellow VFW members are looking forward to is the Veterans and First Responders Run, Walk and Roll scheduled for Saturday, November 12, at Riverside Park in Bonners Ferry.

“This year, one of the retirees in the area is actually running that event,” Michael noted. “So, of course, the VFW and the [American Legion and DAV] will support as much as they can there.”

Michael said he hoped this event would continue to make people aware of the VFW and the work that they do to help local veterans.

Many people are often unaware of the challenges that service men and women face when they return home from conflicts around the world, Michael explained, which is why he believes educating people about organizations like the VFW is so important. “Programs like the Wounded Warrior and other groups that are out there have actually made the average American civilian much more aware of the difficulties that someone in the military has to adjust back to [when they return from battle],” Michael said.

He added that unless veterans have a community behind them that is supportive, they will often slip through the cracks without getting the help they need to transition back to civilian life.

When he first came home from Vietnam, many people did not pay Michael much attention or thank him for his service, he remembered. That is something he has slowly seen improve over the years, as the public becomes more aware of the sacrifices that American armed service men and women make every day.

“I’d like to see the awareness continue to grow and to be able to have the civilian world to greet these people back,” Michael said. “There are some beautiful programs by different organizations that are doing that.”

To learn more about VFW Post 3622 and see their upcoming events, look up “VFW 3622 Bonners Ferry, Idaho on Facebook.

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