There were many reasons for celebration during the 2018-19 State Convention including the Department of Pennsylvania VFW finishing over the 100% in membership mark for the first time in 17 years.
Outgoing State Commander Thomas M. Hanzes of Post 7599 thanked all VFW leaders and individual members for their outstanding recruiting and retention efforts, which drove the State VFW’s final membership standing at 100.50% as of June 18, including 1,645 new members and 573 reinstated members for a total of 74,093.
Nine Districts earned “All State” honors and 32 Posts received that honor during the State Convention (see the attached list). Fourteen out of the Department of Pennsylvania VFW’s 24 Districts are over 100% in membership, with several weeks remaining in the membership year.
The Department’s strong year helped fuel the National VFW membership performance to 101.62% totaling 1,158,730 members.
In addition to celebrating membership accomplishments, Commander Hanzes took great pride in recognizing the Department of Pennsylvania VFW for three National VFW honors:
- First place in the National VFW Voice of Democracy Contest,
- First place in the National VFW Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year Award in the high school category, and
- First place in feature story writing for PA VFW News and a Bronze Award for Department publications.
While giving the Department the opportunity to close the 2018-19 year out on a very high note, the 100th State Convention also served as a platform to launch newly installed State Commander Wayne D. Perry (Post 7505 in District 25) into his one-year term as the Department’s top officer.
Delegates also elected State Sr. Vice Commander Ronald J. Peters (Post 212 in District 19) and State Jr. Vice Commander Nathaniel Smith (Post 7293 in District 8). Re-Elected were State Quartermaster John B. Getz, Jr., (Post 3376 in District 9), a past state commander who was appointed to continue his Department service as State Adjutant; State Judge Advocate Frank J. McGovern (Post 3460 in District 7); State Surgeon Nelson E. Lowes, Sr., ( Post 6743 in District 27); and State Chaplain Peter R. Hook (Post 6393 in District 8), a past National VFW Chaplain. John A. Brenner (Post 2493 in District 21), a past state commander, was appointed as State Parliamentarian. Cecil K. Dennis (Post 5958 in District 28) was named by State Commander Perry as his chief of staff. National Council member Robert C. Eiler (Post 7842 in District 28), a past state commander, continues to represent the Department on the national level.
State Commander Perry is a U.S. Navy veteran who earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal during nearly four years of service, most of which was overseas duty. His official State Commander photo is attached to this email; a copy will be mailed to all Posts inside the 2019-20 Membership Contest Book.
Always a highlight at Department functions, the latest PA VFW Eagle Award was presented to PA Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Christopher M. Ryan, whose outstanding military career includes service in the Middle East to combat terror groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Ryan is a member of the 111th Security Forces Squadron, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham Air Guard Station. As a Security Forces Specialist, his mission is to protect the people, property and resources of the United States Air Force.
As a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, this job and the tasks required become slightly more unique and diverse. This requires extensive training in law enforcement and combat tactics since he works both state side on and off-air bases and overseas in war zones.
Security forces members also specialize in nuclear and non-nuclear weapon system security, physical and information security, convoy security, integrated base defense, combat arms, law enforcement, anti-terrorism resource protection and corrections. Security Forces members identify and deliver emergent and future force protection and force application solutions through modeling and simulation. Staff Sergeant Ryan balances all the necessary requirements of a Security Forces Member while maintaining a full-time career as a New York City Police Officer.
In August of 2014, Staff Sergeant Ryan enlisted in the United States Air Force and officially became a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. On April 17, 2015, he graduated Basic Training and proceeded to attend the Security Forces Academy. In August of 2015, Staff Sergeant Ryan became a “Distinguished Graduate” upon completion of the Security Forces Academy and earned his “Teal Rope” through the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. Upon returning to Horsham Air Guard Station in the summer of 2015, he remained on active duty orders to provide crucial security for the 2015 Philadelphia Papal visit.
In 2017, Staff Sergeant deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve. While deployed, he played a key role training 12 Airmen as Host Nation Base Defense Operation Control Center liaisons, providing a valuable connection to the Emirate Government and improving host nation relations. While at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, his Inherent Resolve Campaign duty focused specifically on aiding the push to take back Mosul, Iraq. His Operation Freedom Sentinel duty helped continue counter-terrorism operations against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. During his time at the Air Base, the security he and his comrades provided enabled the successful launch of over 4,300 combat sorties and the deployment of 387 bombs on enemy targets.
SSGT Ryan was accompanied by Lt. Col. James P. Williams, Commander, 111 Security Forces Squadron, who thanked the Department for its strong support of PA Guardians.