A group of Magnolia-area veterans is working to reopen a former Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which closed in Magnolia roughly 20-30 years ago, said Mitch Fuller, director of government and public affairs for the Texas VFW.

“For years now, the Tomball VFW has represented the Magnolia area as well. When Tomball and Magnolia were both little-bitty towns, it was fine. ... One VFW could represent those communities. But Tomball and Magnolia are not small little towns anymore,” said Stephen Biehl, deputy state inspector for the Texas VFW and member of the Tomball VFW Post 2427.

Magnolia was previously home to VFW Post 9286, Fuller said.

Harold Reed, a Magnolia resident and commander of the Grimes County VFW, said in January that a group of veterans is organizing membership drives with hopes of having the required 35 members by July to apply for a charter to reopen the post.

Without a post in Magnolia, veterans must travel to Tomball or Conroe to get involved in a VFW—a trip that is becoming increasingly difficult as the Magnolia area grows, said Meredith Holley, whose husband is a member at the Tomball post.

“Magnolia’s spread very large,” Holley said. “Veterans who have certain needs, some of them don’t drive on the freeway, so they need a ride. So if it’s closer to them, they’re going to go get the help that they need.”

Need for a post

Reed said VFW membership is restricted to approximately 1% of veterans: those who have served honorably on foreign soil or in hostile waters. However, veterans at large, their families and the community can benefit from a local VFW post, he said.

“We want to be a fixture of the community to help out, but the other thing is that we want to be there to help veterans. [It] doesn’t matter what walk of life they’re from—whether they were in a foreign war or not, we’re there to help veterans,” Reed said.

Reed said VFW services could include helping veterans and their families with benefit applications, finding resources, death benefits and funeral arrangements; offering flag retirement services; and educating the community about history. In addition, each post hosts essay scholarship contests for students and provides other financial contributions.

There were 3,525 veterans living within Magnolia ISD’s boundaries in 2019, according to 5-year estimates from the Census Bureau, a 9.47% increase from 2014. During the same time period, data shows the population of veterans in Montgomery County and in Texas declined.

“That’s a lot of people being represented by a VFW that’s not even in that community,” Biehl said.

Biehl said he estimates there are at least 500 eligible veterans in Magnolia who are not yet VFW members.

Holley, who also serves as secretary for Texans United For Freedom—a Magnolia-based nonprofit working with veterans—said she has lived in Magnolia for 38 years but got involved with the Tomball VFW within the last year.

“The VFW is a family thing. It’s knowing that someone has your back at all times, and a lot [of veterans] will not go seek it in other places,” she said. “It took us a long time [to join]; I’m so thankful that we did what we did. But it was because it was in Tomball. We didn’t want to go to Tomball; we didn’t want to go to Conroe. It’s a drive.”

Chartering a VFW post

Fuller said reopening the Magnolia post would make it the 286th VFW post in Texas. The new post would come as the state expects its VFW-eligible population to grow following 9/11.

“The demographics of the VFW 30 years ago was twice as large as it is now nationally and in Texas, and that’s because of the World War II generation,” Fuller said. “Then it takes about 15 to 20 years after a conflict ends to see real growth and real numbers in the VFW. ... We anticipate more of this in this decade because we’re about 20 years removed from 9/11.”

According to 2019 five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 18% of veterans within MISD boundaries served after September 2001, an increase from 11.68% in 2014.

To recharter the Magnolia post, there must be 15 members new to VFW membership and 35 total members, meaning some can transfer their membership from another VFW post, Biehl said. Members do not have to live in Magnolia.

Reed said the group hopes to apply with the state in July, which will then assign the Magnolia post to a district. Once national approval is given—determining the post number and approving the charter—the Magnolia VFW will then incorporate as a nonprofit, he said.

The first membership event was held Jan. 27 with more planned in March and April, Reed said.

“It’s huge to have the VFW, even on my end [as a spouse],” Holley said. “If my husband needs to talk to somebody or I need to talk with someone, it’s the place to call; it’s the place to be. Even if you need somebody to be there to pat you on the back and say, ‘Keep going, you’re doing a great job.’ ... I think it’s very much needed in Magnolia.”