Closing out a weekend of patriotism, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) will gather at the Judicial Annex Monday to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and read the Declaration of Independence for its 245th anniversary of being signed.

The VFW is made up of veterans who have served in combat making it different from the American Legion, and is the oldest veteran support organization in the country.

Veterans having trouble with moving expenses, putting food on the table, making claims with Veterans Affairs or need emergency aid can count on VFW, where they’re “committed to taking care of veterans, their families, their survivors,” said Dean Rakoskie, Judge Advocate for VFW.

No matter if someone is a member of VFW or not, any veteran can get help from the VFW. “It’s veterans helping veterans,” said Rakoskie. “If somebody is a veteran and doesn’t belong to the VFW, doesn’t belong to any other organization, we’ll still help them.”

VFW will read the Pledge of Allegiance in Monday’s ceremony at 10 a.m., but they take it as an oath every time, said Rakoskie.

“It applies to everybody that’s ever served,” said Rakoskie. “We took an oath, and we have never un-taken that oath, so whether we are on active duty or left the service, we still recognize that oath.”

VFW also fosters patriotism within the community with their civic program, recognizing law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and teachers of history, civics, government and other patriotic subjects, said Rakoskie.

In part of their community engagement, the VFW offers youth and education programs like picking teacher of the year or giving scholarships to essay contest winners.

Two essay contests are headed-up by the VFW: The Voice of Democracy for high school students and The Patriot’s Pen for grades 6th-8th. An audio essay is required for The Voice of Democracy matching this year’s theme, “America: Where do we go from here?” with a $30,000 reward.

The Patriot’s Pen offers winnings up to $5000 for 1st place winners and adjusted winnings all the way until the 26th-53rd places who receive $500. This year’s theme is “How can I be a good American?”

Veterans interested in joining VFW can do so here. Membership dues for this year have been waived now that one donor has offered to pay the dues of every new member, said Rakoskie.