By Pam Dudding Contributing writer
When duty calls, many honorable men and women have responded to serve, and continue to do so in the United States of America.
When one speaks to a Veteran, most will tell you how proud they are to have served their country. Their heartfelt demeanor shines through like a medal that’s just been polished.
In Craig County, we are blessed to have many who have served in the Armed Forces.
We also have a group of local Veterans who belong to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW Craig Valley Post 4491.
In looking at the VFW seal, or the Cross of Malta, it seems quite detailed. Then, in looking at its meanings, it becomes apparent that every detail was thought through completely.
We see that the VFW insignia is the eight-pointed Maltese Cross on a background of radiating solar rays. Upon the Cross is superimposed the Great Seal of the United States, encircled by the name of our organization.
On the international VFW site, they share that the VFW seal, the insignia of their organization, is 1,000 years old.
It is an “artistic representation of service stripes, easily recognizable insignia indicative of military service,” worn on most service uniforms.
Every detail in the VFW insignia has some definite meaning. The Cross, the rays and the seal together “symbolize the character, vows and purposes distinguishing the Veterans of Foreign Wars as a vigorous order of men who have traveled far from home to fight for the principles to which they are pledged:”
- The first and leaner of the two service stripes represents their steadfast entry into their second century of service to America’s veterans, service members and their families
- The second, broader stripe represents their first storied century of service, spanning back to 1899
- The bold letters and sharp angles of this text represent the strength and stability of their organization, and the clarity with which they diligently work to fulfill their mission
- The use of vibrant red represents the danger their members have faced, the bloodshed they experienced and the energy with which the organization operates
- The gallant gold represents their members’ achievements, acts of valor and the unique VFW eligibility status they’ve earned and “epitomizes their gold standard of service”
- The custom upper-case letters were especially designed with an extended width to symbolize an organization that is well established. Combined with a tight letter spacing, these letters visually build a solid and confident block that reflects the unified culture of their organization
- In addition to the direct metaphor of the stripes, the visual progression leading to the build of the letter “V” represents their sustained and forward movement into achieving the VFW’s mission
- In order to bring the acronym and title together, the gold stripes and the “V” from “VETERANS” have been carefully drawn to align on the same axis, emphasizing the element of continuity
- Between the eight points of the Cross the Veterans of Foreign Wars has added the sun’s rays. These emphasize the vigor and warmth with which the present-day brotherhood is pledged to defend the nation and to extend its mercy
- Over the Cross of Malta is superimposed the American eagle. Everyone recognizes this as the sacred symbol of a proud nation whose men through many generations have fought and sacrificed to preserve our way of living
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was founded in 1899, but the Cross of Malta was created hundreds of years ago by a group of men known as the Crusaders. The story is compelling.
“Those men were warriors who campaigned, fought and willingly sacrificed their lives in defense of human liberties,” the site explains. “Those early warriors served mankind in many other ways – always under the sign of the Maltese Cross, the symbolic banner of their own choice.”
The meaning of the Cross of Malta dates back to nearly a thousand years ago when the Crusades waged in the Middle East. The Malta Cross became the insignia of the Knights of St. John, “the world’s first great brotherhood of men pledged to chivalry.”
History notes that during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, the Knights of St. John also fought gallantly, far from their homes, in defense of religious freedom. At the same time, they administered to the sick, the needy and to the poor.
The Knights of St. John were men from all walks of life, noblemen and priests, artisans and laborers.
“Regardless of their birth, they were brothers bound by a common oath of unity, bravery and service to mankind,” the VFW site states. “Together, they waged many fierce battles against intolerance. They carried their crusades across deserts and seas, into the Holy Land, Cyprus, Rhodes and Malta.”
These crusaders adopted the Cross of Malta as their insignia because its eight points symbolized the beatitudes prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible, which are; (1) blessed are the poor in spirit, (2) the meek, (3) the pure, (4) the merciful and (5) the peacemakers (6) blessed are they that mourn and (7) seek righteousness and (8) they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Therefore, Cross of Malta had a religious origin.
It is believed that the Knights of St. John also made it the battle standard for all men, women, and children struggling against oppression.
“The things for which the crusaders fought a thousand years ago are identical to the present-day principles of Democracy – freedom, justice and tolerance,” it shares. “These are the reasons why a handful of American fighting men who founded the Veterans of Foreign Wars selected the Cross of Malta as their insignia. They were establishing a new brotherhood of crusaders from all walks of life who have gone into battlefields around the world to fight for human rights.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is chartered by the Congress of the United States.
“Article I of the VFW Constitution also states that, ‘The objective of the order shall be fraternal, patriotic, historical and education; that its members shall preserve and strengthen comradeship; that they shall maintain allegiance to the government of the United States and fidelity to its laws; that the members shall foster true patriotism, extend American freedoms and defend this nation from all enemies. When a person joins the Veterans of Foreign Wars they vow in the presence of Almighty God and the members of this Order” to maintain loyalty to the government, to the VFW, and to their fellow comrades.’”
When the new member is given the Cross of Malta, they become part of a great brotherhood of overseas veterans.
“Men and women qualified to wear the VFW emblem have earned it honestly, and they wear it proudly,” the VFW shares.
For many, it seems to “tell their story when they cannot.”