Northeastern University showed its commitment to its student veteran population this week by opening a Veterans of Foreign Wars post on campus—only the second in the nation started by student veterans.
Max Spahn, a 27-year-old Northeastern student veteran, is a founding member of the post and will serve as the its commander.Last year, he was the president of the Student Veterans Organization on campus. Hesaid that getting the chance to be a part of a new VFW post was so meaningful.
“VFW state officials approached us and asked if we wanted to be a part of making history,” he said. “It's incredible, and it isn’t the first thing from Northeastern—they’ve been there from day one with everything they do for veterans.”
Northeastern already has a Student Veterans Organization and the most generous financial commitment, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in the commonwealth, according to Andy McCarty, the director of the university’s Veteran’s Services Center.
But partnering with the VFW takes the school’s commitment to student veterans to another level, McCarty said. Services like the Student Veterans Organizations help form a community on campus, but by getting students involved with the VFW early, they’ll never find themselves without that support.
“There’s a seamless transition once they graduate. Now it’s not that they’ve lost access to this community but that they’re already part of this community and can continue to be for the rest of their lives,” he said. “And tying into an organization that’s been around for more than 100 years, it has even more resources, be it financial or knowledge based.”
Spahn discounts rumors that the VFW organization is “dying out,” that new veterans aren’t becoming members.
“There are new issues that face veterans in college that don’t affect most of the VFW,” he said. By having student veterans join the nonprofit service organization, he said, “it’s a refresher—it keeps the ball rolling, allowing us to continue the long history of the VFW.”
For Spahn, the opening ceremony on Monday was “mind-blowing.” The VFW National Commander in Chief installed him and the 11 other student veterans as VFW officers.
The new post was named in honor of Robert R. Pirelli, a Northeastern grad and Army staff sergeant from Franklin, Massachusetts, who was killed in Iraq in 2007. The ceremony was held at the school’s Veterans Memorial, which commemorates students and alumni who have lost their lives in service of the country.
To become a member of the VFW, a person must have served in combat in a foreign country. Spahn described it as somewhat of a selective group, but highlighted that the VFW post on Northeastern’s campus is open to any member, not just current student veterans.
“The fact that student veterans would graduate and miss that piece when they left the service, we can fill that role,” he said.