Pāhoa Veterans of Foreign Wars helps service members impacted by the Maui Wildfires
A Pāhoa-based Veterans of Foreign Wars post traveled from the Big Island to Maui last month to provide aid to veterans impacted by the devastating Aug. 8 Lāhainā wildfire.
Members from Pāhoa’s Post 3030, along with officers from the Department of Hawai’i, went to Maui last September to provide disaster relief and support to as many veterans as possible.
Supplies went to Post 3850 in Kihei, with large shipments of clothing, blankets, school supplies, nonperishable food items, household goods, baby formula, hygiene items, and more. Post 3850 also served as the staging area for veterans to come and receive assistance.
Post 3850 Commander Alton Sanders said “everyone has been incredibly generous,” with materials coming in from all over.
“As fast as we are unpacking these boxes, more shipments are coming in and we have a lot more left in storage,” he said.
In addition to donations, the VFW handed out financial relief directly to veterans and their families.
“Many VFW Posts around the country donated money to help with our Maui brothers and sisters,” said VFW Department of Hawai’i State Commander Ron Schaedel in a statement. “We’ve given out thousands of dollars so far this week and there’s more to give. The support has been overwhelming.”
Norbert Enos, the VFW State of Hawai’i Department Quartermaster, assessed the veterans’ situation and determined how much assistance to give.
“I ask each veteran how they were affected by the fires. I found out if they lost their homes, vehicles and personal possessions,” Enos said. “Once I’m done with my questions, I know exactly how much money I can give.”
Along with providing financial relief, the VFW also replaced lost military documents that perished in the fire.
“Many Veterans lost their DD-214s, medical records, and personnel files in the fires,” said Ron Lockwood, the Chief of Staff for the VFW Department of Hawai’i. “These are important documents that veterans will need going forward and we can help replace them.”
Volunteers also focused on connecting veterans with a service officer to help them with their disability claims.
Ben Fuata, the Veteran Service Officer and Senior Vice Commander for the VFW Department of Hawai’i, was on the ground in Maui and helped more than 20 veterans with their claims; either starting a new claim, following up with existing claims, or helping increase the veteran’s disability rating.
“One of the most important roles for us here in Maui is to help veterans with their disability claims,” Fuata said. “There are many veterans who think they don’t deserve help, since they joined to serve their Country. I’m here to make sure those veterans are taken care of.”
The VFW team plans to return to Maui and continue their mission.
“There are hundreds of veterans who were affected and displaced by the fires,” Schaedel said. “No matter how much we do this week, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Our hope is to spread the word and help everyone we can.”