Veterans call on Gov. Abbott to reopen VFW posts after closure due to pandemic

Posts were closed due to having more than 51 percent in alcohol sales

SAN ANTONIO – A VFW post is much more than its beverage sales.”

That line was part of the letters and messages sent to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in an effort to reopen Texas VFW posts.

A lot of the posts in Texas have an alcohol license and exceed the 51 percent rule, meaning during the pandemic they have to shut their doors.

A local post, Post 8541, coordinated a new high-tech project and had a bright future of helping the younger generation of veterans, but now that has turned into frustration.

“When I was deployed to Afghanistan, I noticed a lot of the veterans are using these as a stress release, a chance to escape the everyday patrols,” Commander of Post 8541, Bill Smith, said.

A gaming project has been in the works for months and was a coordinated effort between numerous organizations like the VFW and LFG Cybercafe.

Gaming project at VFW. (KSAT)

“We were actually really fortunate as Microsoft, you know, closed down their store lock and terra, they made a pretty substantial donation of about $25,000 worth of hardware and furniture,” Sam Elizondo, Co-owner LFG Cybercafe said.

And already members and leaders at Post 8541 have used the concept of the room to bring in more members of the community, giving them a place they can feel comfortable.

“We’ve recruited a lot of veterans because of this,” Smith said.

There was an overwhelming sense of optimism and excitement for the unique project.

“We couldn’t wait to get the veterans in here,” Smith said.

The room has been completely revamped and now has three gaming consoles and six computer stations, aimed at recruiting young veterans and making them comfortable, but veterans are not even allowed in the building.

“Because we had the 51 percent on our license we’re shut down,” Smith said.

It’s not just this new game room that’s closed, it’s the entire post.

“The veteran fought for his country to make it what it is today,” State Commander Dick Shawver of the VFW Department of Texas said.

The state commander came to talk to use and break down how this is so much more than just a building.

“Veterans want someone to come in and talk to. They have problems. They had a bad day. There’s nobody better than to talk to another veteran that can understand what they’ve been through. So the shutdown has affected us tremendously,” Commander Shawver said.

The VFW has sent letters, made calls, and reached out to local and state leaders.

Posts like 8541 are crucial for veteran’s health and livelihood. And the volunteer projects at Texas VFWs have raised more than $4 million for communities.

The state commander doesn’t know what else to do and has a message for Governor Abbott.

“I would ask him to respond to our letters. Those without him responded, it’s like he doesn’t care for veterans. And that hurt a lot of veterans, too. I would ask him to consider his executive order and let us in,” Commander Shawver said.

The commanders here tell me they can do fine with closing the bar here, they just want to be able to take care of our veterans.

KSAT12 reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office and the governor’s Communication Director, John Wittman, responded with the following statement:

“TABC has assured the Governor they will find a solution to this problem and ensure VFW halls are not closed. This issue will be resolved within 24 hours.”

Letter to Gov. Abbott image. (KSAT)
Letter to Gov. Abbott image. (KSAT)

About the Authors: