Franklin VFW officers removed, post shut down after complaints about canteen

  • VFW State Judge Advocate Dana Hussey at the back door of the Franklin post on Monday, June 12, 2018. Hussey told the patrons to finish their drinks and leave as he closed the facility and the doors locked. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Franklin VFW post was closed suddenly Monday and its leaders were asked to step down after members of the state organization raised concerns about the bar inside the veterans’ social organization.

VFW State Judge Advocate Dana Hussey would not go into detail about the exact allegations against the post, but he said operations had not been “run according to bylaws for some time now,” and the issues had to do with the VFW’s bar, or canteen.

He said the VFW state commander had ordered the post suspended for up to 90 days and that Franklin’s quartermaster and post commander be removed. Hussey came in Monday afternoon, changed the VFW’s locks and asked patrons to leave.

“I came in, told the bartender to give last call and said, ‘Everybody’s leaving,’ ” Hussey said. “They weren’t happy campers.”

Franklin police assisted in escorting individuals out of the VFW, but there were no arrests, according to Franklin police Chief David Goldstein.

“One of my officers said maybe four people there were reluctant to leave, but nothing too out of hand,” Goldstein said.

Hussey said the federal and state VFW organizations had been trying to move away from serving alcohol in posts for a while. Only 25 percent of the New Hampshire’s 44 VFW posts have canteens, Hussey said.

“The VFW started as a place of camaraderie so a veteran would have a place to go and talk to veterans,” Hussey said. “It’s still that purpose, but a lot of them don’t have canteens anymore; we try to get away from that.”

“A lot of things that go on in a canteen reflect poorly on VFW folks,” he added. “You don’t want the drinking and all that other stuff. This is not a club or a bar – it’s a post home.”

The New Hampshire VFW has been working for years to change the perception that its posts are just a place to drink.

A VFW in Nashua got some pushback four years ago when it wanted to move into an old fire building next to an elementary school. The city owned the space and was willing to work with the VFW, but neighbors who spoke at community meetings about their concerns of drugs and drinking happening near the school eventually persisted.

Hussey said a lot of VFWs are nonsmoking now, and that the VFW is trying to recruit younger veterans, female veterans and young families to join the organization.

Franklin VFW members will discuss the suspension at their next meeting on June 20 at post headquarters. Each member was sent a letter informing them of the meeting, Hussey said.

The Franklin VFW has 30 days to appeal the suspension to the state commander in chief, Hussey said.

“They all have the opportunity to attend the meeting and voice their opinions,” he said.

Then, if the appeal is not successful, the state organization will train the VFW’s new leadership to make sure they maintain VFW protocol.

“We’ll form a school of instruction and instruct the commander, the quartermaster and all the new officers on the proper way to run a post so they can become viable, accountable active members of the community again and not have all of the issues that they’ve had in the past,” Hussey said.

Goldstein said police have rarely responded to the post, with the exception of one drug-related call in the past year.

“I don’t really know what the issue is, to be honest with you. As far as I know, there was one drug complaint and that’s it,” Goldstein said. “I can’t even recall reading the log and seeing any fights or anything like that.”

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)