LUMBERTON — For the first time perhaps ever, Lumberton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8969 has been represented at a national VFW convention.
“We have always been a small post and the convention has always been far away,” said Mickey Biggs, the post’s commander. “But this year, being in Charlotte, it was close enough for us to attend.”
Biggs and the post’s quartermaster, Walter Jonathan Smith, both were in Charlotte for the 117th VFW National Convention that was held from Saturday until Wednesday at the Charlotte Convention Center. Neither could remember the local post ever sending anyone to the national convention.
Both Donald Trump, the Republican Party presidential nominee, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s nominee, addressed the convention, which drew thousands of VFW and VFW auxiliary members from across the country and around the world.
Biggs, who as a VFW member from the host state assisted with convention registration, missed Clinton’s Monday morning speech when her plane was late getting her to Charlotte. He was, however, able to hear Trump’s address to the convention on Tuesday.
“Trump said that he wants to overhaul the VA (U.S. Veterans Administration) system and clean it up from top to bottom,” Biggs said. “He said that those that are not doing their jobs should be fired while those doing an exceptionally good job should be rewarded and promoted.
“He also talked about wanting to cut the waiting time for appointments and followups at veteran medical centers to just a few days,” Biggs said. “Overall he supported the VFW’s mission of getting assistance to veterans who need it.”
Smith, who did not hear Trump”s address but was present Monday morning when Clinton spoke to VFW members, said Wednesday that by observing Clinton in person he is now sure he will vote for her for president.
“This is a woman who has worked all her life to help people,” Smith, a 22-year U.S. Army veteran, said. “I loved her. She spoke well about her military and other experiences. She said she will support the VFW and our programs.”
Smith said that during her address to the convention Clinton “didn’t trash” Trump.
“She addressed the issues and left it so that you have to make up your own mind who you want for president,” he said.
Both Biggs and Smith said that information they brought home from the convention will help local veterans, as well as assist the growth of their post, which currently has 55 members.
Biggs, who served in the U.S. Navy four years before beginning a law enforcement career that includes 25 years with the Lumberton Police Department and seven years with the N. C. Department of Insurance’s Criminal Investigation Division, said he hopes some of the information he obtained at the convention will help local veterans obtain the benefits they deserve. He said workshops that were held on Saturday and Sunday were especially helpful in providing educational information about benefits offered veterans by the U.S. government, as well as insurance and other programs offered through private companies and other agencies.
“One of the good things about the convention is you get to meet and network with people from all over,” Biggs said. “That’s good because when you need assistance for anything, you have the resources to call on.”
Smith agreed with Biggs that information gleaned from the convention can be put to good use serving Robeson County’s military veterans.
“There was a lot of information provided,” Smith said. “Everything was about benefits and programs that will support (veterans) and make life better for us.”