With more than one hundred twenty-five years of service to America, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks considers its contributions to the Armed Forces and our country's veterans as one of its proudest achievements.

World War I

During World War 1, the Elks patriotism and generosity helped the nation to victory. In 1917 the Grand Lodge created the War Relief Commission and endowed it with two million dollars to finance activities. 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 the same group from the University of Oregon.

To accommodate the maimed and wounded, the Elks built a 700-bed Reconstruction Hospital and gave it to the federal government in 1918. That same year, the Order built a 72-room Community House to take care of the families visiting the forty thousand soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman, Ohio. They also volunteered to build another hospital in New Orleans, but the government declined the offer saying that it wasn't needed at that time.

During the war, the Salvation Army was severely handicapped in their great work for the servicemen by lack of funds. To make sure that this work continued, the Elks' War Relief Commission and the Subordinate Lodges of the Order undertook campaigns to raise funds for the Salvation Army, and on many occasions assumed the entire cost of these undertakings. In addition, the Commission at Christmas time 1918 gave the Army $60,000 to continue its work.

The Commission made forty thousand rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans to disabled veterans who were ineligible for government help or awaiting approval of their applications. All loans were repaid except in a few cases where death or other intervening causes made it impossible.

This service was so effective that the government followed the Order's example. They set up a revolving fund and took over this activity.

More than seventy thousand Elks served in the armed forces during World War 1. More than one thousand paid the supreme sacrifice.

World War II

The Elks, directed by its National Defense Commission and its War Commission, gave total effort throughout the war. By the time hostilities ceased, the Grand Lodge had spent more than one million five hundred thousand dollars, while the Subordinate Lodges spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

Local lodges aided in the recruitment of army flying cadets. More than four hundred-lodges conducted refresher courses that qualified thousands of young men for training.

In 1942 the Adjutant General asked for help in recruiting 45,000 men for Air Corps ground crews. Again the lodges responded and set up a program that recruited 97,000 men. Because of their previous record, the Secretary of the Navy asked for help in recruiting for the Naval Air Corps. Once again the Elks came through.

During 1943 there was a critical shortage of construction specialists in the armed services. Once again, because of their record, the Elks were asked to help recruit construction personnel. Because of the efficiency and enthusiasm of the Elks, the only organization to participate in this program, the required numbers of Army Engineers and Navy Seabees were obtained three months ahead of schedule.

The Merchant Marine notified the Elks War Commission that there was a shortage of reading materials for their men on board ships. Once again the Elks, with the characteristic unselfishness of their Subordinate Lodges, accepted the challenge. Within a short time, over a half a million books were collected and donated to the Merchant Marine, which probably gave them the world's largest floating library.

Servicemen also enjoyed the hospitality of the 155 Elks fraternal centers which were stationed throughout the country. More than one million GIs were guests at the New York City Center.

Thousands of gift boxes containing smoker's supplies, candy and personal hygiene items were sent to the fighting men, while thousands of slippers were distributed to hospitalized servicemen.

In 1946 the Elks War Commission became the Elks National Veterans Service Commission. The name was again changed in 1949 to the Elks National Service Commission. In 1995 the name was changed back to the Elks National Veterans Service Commission.

Korea and Vietnam

When a shooting war broke out in Korea in 1950, the Elks responded by sending the gift packs as they had done in World War 11. The same was done in 1965 for those involved in the Vietnam conflict.

In 1951 during the Korean War, the Secretary of Defense appealed to the Order for help in procuring blood for our wounded. Within a few months, the Elks lodges obtained over a half a million pints.

During the Vietnam War, the Defense Department was concerned with the morale of our 400,000 troops fighting communist aggression because of the anti-American sentiments being reported on the home front. After much discussion, it was decided that a "Letters from Home" campaign would help counteract all the negative acts emanating from this country.

The Elks again answered the call and flooded these fine young men with letters expressing our gratitude for the sacrifices they were making for our country.

Operation Desert Storm

As our fighting men and women were defending the sanctity of life from the sands of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to Iraq, the Elks once again mounted a letter writing campaign thanking these patriots for their dedication to duty. Gift packs were also sent as in previous conflict.