FORT SMITH — A local chapter of a national organization for veterans will celebrate a new, healthier life this week.
The Jim Taylor Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8845 will host a reopening event at 1 p.m. Monday. This follows its members’ vote to ban smoking in the building on July 9. Part of that decision involved closing the station Saturday and today for a deep clean.
Leroy Farmer, commanding officer of the post, said the post’s leadership believes that caring for the well-being of its veterans is more important than addressing unhealthy habits that can also negatively affect others, such as smoking and second-hand smoke.
Farmer said the smoking ban will also make the post a more family-friendly environment. He noted that the post, which has a bar, could not allow entry to anyone under the age of 21 due to its smoking status under state law. This meant that veterans with children or teenagers could not enjoy the benefits of the position with their families.
“What we wanted to do is become non-smoking so that when we have catering, like we cook a meal or have a party, you can actually invite children and minors to be in the establishment and enjoy the family aspect of the VFW,” said Farmer.
Farmer hopes the opening of the post as a non-smoking venue on Monday will increase the number of activities there, especially those that are family oriented.
Holly Kwiecinsky, a Navy veteran and member of the post with two daughters, called the post’s switch to non-smokers a “wonderful step into the future.”
“Honestly, it will be a lot nicer to come here for events and not have to leave and smell the smoke,” Kwiecinsky said.
Farmer also believes that the absence of smoking will help encourage more veterans, as well as younger ones, to join the post, as older members, such as those who served in the Vietnam War, continue to to get old. As of Wednesday, the post had already gained seven new members since July 1 for a total of 178 registered, which Farmer attributed in part to its new no-smoking policy.
Phillip Hodges, the post’s junior vice commander, noted that the younger generation of veterans is not as prone to smoking as older generations.
Jeffrey Byrd, VFW commander for Arkansas, said Friday that a few of the organization’s other posts in the state moved to ban smoking ahead of the Fort Smith post. That includes two in the past two years, one at Searcy and another at Jonesboro.
However, Byrd declined to say whether he thought more of the 76 VFW positions in Arkansas would do the same. He said such decisions are up to post members, rather than the national or national level of the organization.
Many veterans smoked or used tobacco products during their military service, where the practice has a long history, according to a news release from the Fort Smith post. Farmer, whose 13-year tenure in the military included time in Iraq and elsewhere, said Vietnam War food rations included five cigarettes.
Hodges, who spent 12 years in the Arkansas National Guard, said one of his responsibilities while serving in Iraq was to help clear transport routes for explosives so they could be walked in. completely safe. He recalled how people who had never smoked before started doing it to manage adrenaline and other work-related stressors over other remedies such as drugs, something that they had learned from those who already smoked.
Farmer said this weekend’s cleanup will include cleaning all decorations on the station’s walls, which will be repainted, to ensure the facility doesn’t smell of cigarette smoke when it opens. Monday’s celebration will feature appearances from political dignitaries, including Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin.
The post discussed the issue of smoking for two to three months before deciding to quit it, according to Farmer.
Veterans of Foreign Wars numbers approximately 10,000 members in Arkansas.
Source: Jeffrey Byrd, State Commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars