Culver City, CA 1917

Veterans A Concise History

Our mission is the same today as it was many years ago...

To provide aid and comfort to any veteran in need

In 1917, the world was at war. The Order of Elks was only 49 years old. In April of that year, Grand Exalted Ruler Edward Rightor appointed a committee to study what the Order of Elks should do in this crisis. The Committee recommended to the membership that "the Elks give first consideration to the sick and wounded on the battlefields of France and equip base hospitals for their care," and that "the Order create a fund for war relief work." The membership enthusiastically and unanimously approved a resolution appropriating $1 million dollars for the War Relief Fund. This money was raised by our Brothers at the subordinate Lodge level. A commission evolved into the organization we have today: the Elks National Veterans Service Commission. During World War I, the Elks, under the auspices of the War Relief Commission, helped the nation to victory. Through the patriotism and generosity of our members, the commission organized and equipped the first two base hospitals to reach France -- Unit 41 staffed by faculty and alumni from the University of Virginia, and Unit 46 with University of Oregon faculty and alumni. In 1918, to accommodate the maimed and wounded, the Elks built a 700-bed Reconstruction Hospital in Boston and gave it to the War Department. That was the only veterans hopsital after World War I that was donated by a private entity. Also in 1918, the Order built a 72-room Community House to take care of families visiting the 40,000 soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman, Ohio. During the war, the Salvation Army was severely handicapped in its great work for the servicemen by lack of funds. To make sure this work continued, the Elks War Relief Commission and the subordinate Lodges of the Order undertook campaigns to raise funds for the Salvation Army. In addition, the commission, at Christmastime 1918, gave the Salvation Army $60,000 to continue its work. The Commission made 40,000 rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans to disabled veterans who were ineligible for government help or were waiting approval of their applications for assistance. This service was so effective that the federal government followed the Order's example; they set up a revolving fund and took over this activity. More than 70,000 Elks served in the armed forces during World War I. The supreme sacrifice was paid by more than 1,000. In 1940, it was becoming quite apparent to many people that war was quickly approaching our shores. Another commission was established to help preserve and defend our democratic way of life. When thousands of wounded and disabled members of the armed forces returned to the States for recuperation at government hospitals, the Elks again stepped forward, offering their services to help entertain the veterans. The Elk volunteers also spent hours listening to these heroes. They heard their tales of horror and heroism during battle. They listened to the hopes and dreams of these young veterans who were far from home, family, spouses and sweethearts. Most of all, the Elks were there to lend support whenever possible. A new partnership between the Elks and the charitable affiliate of the Vietnam Veterans of America will raise funds to assist soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all veterans of the nation's wars. To learn more about Veteran Programs, please visit Veteran Services