When Denver’s VFW Post 1 members proudly display the “we’re number 1” gesture, it’s legit. The group annually marks its 1899 VFW “First Post” founding with a special gathering–the December date adds some extra holiday sparkle with a family feeling. Members and supporters gather to commemorate the Post’s anniversary, recognize the organization’s continued good work and they are focused on honoring veterans of all conflicts. This year you could say it was as easy as 123 to celebrate its 123rd anniversary with a festive gala at The Westin Westminster.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, the evening began with a reception and music provided by the Deborah Stafford Trio. Guests adjourned to the Westminster Ballroom for a ceremony that began with the flag presentation by Colorado 1st Volunteer Infantry Honor Guard, followed by the National Anthem sung by Stafford. The Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony was conducted by past VFW National Chaplain John Holland.
Tom Mustin, longtime Denver news anchor, served as program emcee. (The USS Mustin was named in honor of his family members who have devoted more than a century of U.S. Naval service…beginning with Tom’s great-grandfather Henry Mustin, naval aviation pioneer and Naval Academy grad, Class of 1896.) Guests had the opportunity to whoop it up when the VFW Band played each Military Service song. VFW National Sr. Vice Commander-in-Chief Duane Sarmiento spoke to the crowd, with a message that emphasized how VFW posts have progressed beyond meetings solely focused on exchanging war stories.
Award honorees were recognized: Ashley Ferris, Lakewood Police officer, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year (wounded as she shot and killed an active shooter in Lakewood in 2021); Gen. Kevin. P. “Chilly” Chilton (Ret.), Jack Swigert Award; Healing Warriors, Irving Hale Veteran Organization of the Year Award; Jordy Construction, Corporate Partner of the Year Award; Ellen Winiarzcyk, Citizen of the Year Award; Larry Eversol, Kelsey Komarek VAC Citizen in the Arts Award; Darren Schultz, Ray Starkey Member of the Year Award; Michael Mitchel, John Holland Lifetime Achievement Award; Judy Sadler, Auxiliary Member of the Year Award; The American Legion, Helen K. Osmundson Post 206, Patriotic Partner of the Year.
Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Bradford J. “BJ” Shwedo (Ret.) spoke to the crowd and Post Commander Jim Stevens gave the Commander’s Award to Jack Phares, then presented a State of the Post message. A short memorial followed for active duty service members and veterans lost during the year. The evening ended with a drawing that resulted in three lucky guests winning a variety of prizes.
VFW’s John S. Stewart Post 1 is the inaugural Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in existence: “First of many, but one of a kind.” As an actively engaged veterans organization located in Denver, Post 1 continues the tradition of being on the forefront of service to veterans and to our country. All money raised goes to veteran wellness, scholarships for family members and the Veterans Relief Fund that helps veterans and their families with emergency needs such as emergency temporary shelter, vehicle repairs and power bills. Post 1 writes: “In order to continue our tradition and host our event, we need dedicated attendees like yourself to help us make an impact in our Veteran community each and every day. You are a part of our community and without you, none of our work and accomplishments would be possible.” To learn more, visit: VFWpost1.org