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Business of the Month: May 2023

VFW Post 8637 Eagle River



VFW Post 8637 Eagle River

418 W. Pine Street 
Eagle River, WI  54521 
(715) 479-8810 
Commander: Dennis Geiseman

This month, in which we celebrate Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military, we are pleased to give our May Business of the Month Award to Eagle River VFW Post 8637.  I was delighted recently to spend quality time with Dennis Geiseman, VFW Post Commander, to learn about the VFW, his military service, and why this non-profit organization is so important to the Eagle River community. 

Tell us about your service, how VFWs came to be, and how you eventually became Commander of the Eagle River VFW. 

I’m a Vietnam Vet. I was 18 years-old when I was drafted, draft number 35. Instead of going into the Army, I decided to go into the Marine Corps. As soon as I finished Basic, they shipped me off to Nam. I served for six years, and was one of the lucky ones to come home. If I had to do it all over again, I would be the first to go back.

When I came home, they didn’t tell us about VFWs. They didn’t have housing for us, they didn’t know what to do with us. And of course, when we came home nobody liked us. 

As a result, my goal was to take care of Veterans and do as much as I could to help them because what we saw was terrible. There is nothing good about war. So, I dedicated my life to helping Vets doing whatever I could to help the community. I always felt that if we could be the center of the community, the community will want us here. Then, we’ll all work together. I’ve been in VFWs all over the United States, and there is no town like Eagle River. Eagle River loves and supports their Vets better than any community I’ve seen, and it’s refreshing.

Our VFW started in 1946, and I’ve been the Commander here for the past eight years. It’s a place that was designed for Veterans to come to. 

Back in the day, part of the problem with VFWs was they considered themselves a private club. It was felt that WWII was the only sanctioned war in this country, so Korean Vets, Vietnam Vets were never allowed in VFWs because those wars were considered “conflicts” not “wars”.  Back home in Illinois a lot of my buddies and I ended up joining the American Legion, and American Legions flourished because you didn’t have to fight in a war to belong there. 

Eventually, there were petitions signed and an Act of Congress changed Korea and Vietnam from a conflict to a war and then we were allowed in the VFW. Vets should take care of vets. I ran that VFW for several years, and then came up to Eagle River to finish building my house. I was asked by a WWII Veteran here if I would join this post and serve as Commander. After the war and prior to coming up here I was a police officer for 28 years. 

Once I became Commander, my goal was for the VFW to be open to the community, be part of the community and do everything we could for the community. I’ve always said we went off to soldier for our country, and you never stop soldiering, you now soldier for your community. Together, our community is stronger. 

We’re here and open to help all Veterans, whether you fought in a war or not. That’s why these places are so important. We understand what Vets are going through. 

The helicopter on top of the VFW is so striking. What is the significance of that? 

The Helicopter was flown in Vietnam. The American Legion had it and brought to our building when they became part of our VFW.

What is so special about Eagle River?

I first started coming up here snowmobiling way back in the day. And I loved the close-knit community. I’m not a big city guy. I like where everybody knows everybody. I’m old-school, as the saying goes, ‘Today we build your barn, tomorrow another person’s barn.’  That’s just how I was raised. Eagle River gives you that close-knit feeling. 

What’s also special about our VFW is that it’s not just for Vets, we’re open to the community. Being open to the public, we’re more like a community center. People get to meet each other, and they get to see who we are and what we are. They’re able to understand what we went through. There are a million stories out there. The community is interested in listening to that. Soldiers feel wanted. They also get that sense of feeling that what they did was the right thing to do. Everyone has someone they know or a story of a relative, maybe an uncle or grandfather who served, and so they’re able to relate. 

What’s one thing from your service that has always remained with you? 

Leadership and compassion. In the Marine Corps. they told us that we were all Marine Corps. green, that it didn’t matter what color you were. You build leadership together, and you have compassion for each other because whoever is in your fox hole, you’re protecting them and they’re protecting you. 

Tell us about your staff and menu at the VFW.

They are all volunteers, nobody gets paid. We have 20-25 volunteers, and we appreciate it. We bring in the best food. All our food comes out of Chicago. All our menu options are special but our Chicago Night and our Pork Night, including a pork tenderloin sandwich for just $6.00, is special. Everything we do we hand make. We make it affordable. For the last two months we’ve been making Vienna Hot Dogs and Fries for two bucks. We want families to come out, including when we’re providing food at many of the area’s special events. 

What is the future of the VFW in Eagle River? 

We’re working to establish this as a Veteran’s Resource Center, not just a VFW.  Our non-profit designation would change from a 501(c)(19) to a 501(c)(3), enabling us to reach out and solicit more funds. We welcome corporate and individual donations. If people want to donate, they can simply stop by the VFW and drop off a check. 

How many members do you have? 

We have over 250 members. But even if you weren’t in a war, you can come here. This includes men and women. No one is more important than the next. 

What does our flag mean to you, and what is your hope for the country?

The flag stands for freedom. It represents our whole country. It stood up amongst all the wars.

My hope is that we don’t need any more VFWs or American Legions because there are no wars, that all we have is peace.

Congratulations to the Eagle River VFW Post 8637!

Thank you to all our Veterans for your service!



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