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Ordered out: Suspension of Franklin VFW leaves void for city’s veteran community

  • Franklin VFW Auxiliary Member Lyn Tripp (left) talks about the closing of VFW Post 1698 and the removal of her father Ernie Tucker (right) as post commander at The Soda Shoppe in Franklin on Friday. The Post was shut down in June. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Former Franklin VFW post commander Ernie Tucker talks about his VFW removal while sitting at The Soda Shoppe in Franklin on Friday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Former Franklin VFW post commander Ernie Tucker talks about his VFW removal while sitting at The Soda Shoppe in Franklin on Friday, July 6, 2018. The post was shut down in June. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Michelle Pisco (second from left) talks about the uncertainties about her job as a Franklin VFW bartender while sitting at The Soda Shoppe in Franklin on Friday, July 6, 2018. The post was shut down in June. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Friday, July 06, 2018

For 42 years, the Franklin VFW was a source of happiness and support in Ernie Tucker’s life.

The Vietnam veteran brought his two kids to Post 1698 for Friday night family dinners and to visit Santa Clause at annual Christmas parties. When he retired, he met his “breakfast club” there each morning at 10 a.m., where they drank coffee, read newspapers and discussed Red Sox games.

Tucker, 70, served as a trustee, on Post committees and was elected to the Post’s highest rank – commander – 17 times. At one point when he stepped down as commander for a few years, the Post asked him to come back, he said.

That’s why Tucker was shocked when he and Post 1698’s quartermaster Harry Snyder, another Vietnam veteran, were told to leave their positions at the Post last month.

State VFW organization officials said Tucker and Snyder had missed several deadlines for filing reports and submitting fees. They said the Post, which has a canteen, was prioritizing drinking over community service.

“It was like a slap in my face,” Tucker said recently at The Soda Shoppe in Franklin, where he was wearing one of his many Post 1698 t-shirts.

The VFW state commander ordered the Post suspended on June 11 for up to 90 days, and had the locks changed so no one could go inside. They held a meeting where Post members elected new officials to go through specialized state training.

The state VFW has not specified when Post 1698 will reopen.

Michelle Pisco, a bartender at the Post, said she’s worried about the veterans who rely on the facility for their daily social network.

“They don’t sit around saying, ‘Oh, let’s get drunk,’ ” Pisco said. “It’s a place for them to vent, to come read the paper, watch the news every night. It’s their daily medicine and they’ve been without it for a month.”

Allegations

State VFW quartermaster Greg Lynch said Post 1698 had been late submitting their quarterly financial reports and member fees for years. The state organization had called and emailed the Post to let them know they were in trouble, Lynch said.

“Each time they were late, we would send an email to remind them the deadline had passed,” Lynch said. “In the last few years, they blew us off.”

But Tucker said that he wasn’t aware the situation was so severe. He said he didn’t get any notices from the state saying that there was a problem with the Post’s reporting.

When they did contact him asking for fees, Tucker said he promptly sent them in.

Tucker said they paid an accountant in Franklin to visit the Post weekly and manage the books. That accountant compiled a monthly reports breaking down all
expenses, which were shared at the VFW’s monthly meetings.

Tucker said he also often spent his own money to keep the Post up to snuff and save on costs.

He said he bought sodas for the canteen at the grocery store when he saw a sale. When the Post’s ATM ran out of money, he and Snyder both lent the Post their own money to keep it going until it was fixed. When the dishwasher broke, he replaced it. He said it took the Post three months to pay him back.

Canteen

In the last few decades, Post membership has been declining, Tucker said. In the late 1970s and 80s, there were around 400 VFW members. Now with the Post’s 290 members, they sometimes have trouble meeting quorum – nine members – at monthly meetings.

The Post has a dwindling number of World War II veteran members, some who served in Korea and some who fought in Iraq in Afghanistan. But about half it membership, Tucker said, are Vietnam veterans.

And for the veterans who come in every day, it’s about more than getting a drink or reading the paper, Tucker said. Many veterans live alone, Tucker said, and the VFW is an important part of their social life.

“They come down there because they want to see that person that day and make sure everything is okay,” Tucker said. “If they’re not there two days in a row, people go and knock on their door.”

The canteen is the largest source of income for the Post, Tucker said.

He said the money that comes in from the canteen pays to keep the building running. The Post only receives a little less than $6 per year per member out of the $44 year dues each person pays – the rest of the money goes to the state and national VFW organizations.

Tucker’s daughter, Lyn Tripp, who is a member of the VFW auxiliary, said the Post prioritizes community service.

“When I hear people say that the Franklin VFW doesn’t do anything for the community, it angers me because I know that’s not the truth,” she said.

Tripp said the Post and auxiliary put on a Thanksgiving dinner every year for anyone in the community who wants to attend. In the last eight years, the VFW has raised around $50,000 in scholarships for local students.

What now?

Tucker said he doesn’t understand why the state organization didn’t step in before the Post elections in April, where he ran uncontested for commander. Snyder beat his opponent – who was recently elected after Snyder was told to step down – as quartermaster.

Tucker said he’s working on an appeal of the decision to suspend the Post that he will submit to the national VFW organization. But even if the national VFW determine that the Franklin VFW didn’t break any bylaws, VFW rules state that Tucker and Snyder couldn’t run for office again until next year. 

Tucker said all he wants is for the Post to be up and running again – and to have his community back.

“We just want to get back in and put all of this in the past,” he said.