CHESAPEAKE CITY — When VFW Auxiliary National President Peggy Haake walked through the doors of VFW Post 7687 on Monday afternoon, she was greeted by a group of American flag-waving, song-singing veterans and auxiliary members.
Haake was elected national president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Auxiliary at its 106th National Convention in Orlando, Fla., on July 24. Since then, she has been traveling from her home in Kahului, Hawaii, to visit VFW posts in all 50 states.
Haake’s visit at the VFW Post 7687 in Chesapeake City was her seventh stop on her tour of the U.S.
Cheri Brown, president of the VFW Post 7687 Auxiliary, was pleased to have Haake visiting a post in Cecil County.
“We are so excited and honored to host our National President Peggy Haake at our Post 7687,” Brown said. “Peggy travels to every state and we are proud to have this event for her. Our members are an awesome group of women and men who work together to help veterans, their families and the community.”
JoAnne Bierly, a member of the V.F.W. Post 8185 Auxiliary in Port Deposit, said it was an honor that Haake was visiting a VFW post in Cecil County, and that her Maryland visit was toward the front of her tour.
“There’s 23 counties in Maryland, so to choose Cecil County, which is way up in the corner away from everyone, [is an honor] … It’s a nice event and great for Cecil County that she would come all the way from Hawaii to our county,” Bierly said.
While traveling around the country, Haake said each state has its own approach to running their local posts, but that it all comes back to a common mission: supporting the veterans and military service members who helped protect the nation.
“Every state has their unique criteria, but it’s all for the same purpose,” she said.
Born in Arkansas, Haake said she and her family moved whenever her father, who served in the U.S. Army, was stationed someplace new.
Haake’s husband was born and raised in Hawaii, and also served in the military. When he retired in 1975, the couple moved to Maui and has lived there ever since.
Now, as the leader of the national VFW Auxiliary, Haake said her motto is “Serving our veterans with ‘aloha,’” referring to a Hawaiian word that is often used as a greeting but also has a deeper meaning.
As the organization’s president, Haake said she wants to emphasize the virtues of “aloha” in her work.
“Aloha means a lot of things,” she said. “One of them is kindness and love, caring, helpful, that type of thing. I’m stressing that and stressing one team, one family with our VFW counterparts.”
Haake said the VFW Auxiliary helps advocate for the needs of veterans nationwide.
“We go to D.C. and meet with the legislators and help them promote the benefits that we need to have approved and passed on the national level,” she said.
The VFW also runs youth programs and scholarships, such as the annual Voice of Democracy audio-essay program which welcomes submissions from high school students on topics related to democracy and patriotism. Students who participate in that program enter to win a share of $2.1 million in educational scholarships and incentives — and participants don’t have to be the child of a veteran child to enter, according to Haake.
“It can be anyone in the school that can apply for that,” she said. “We just work through our programs and help everybody.”
Whether they are part of a local VFW or VFW Auxiliary, or they just want to lend their support, Haake encouraged people to get involved with giving back to veterans.
“Support the veterans no matter where you are,” she said. “They like to be appreciated. They need to be appreciated because they keep us free.”