Today one of the local deploying units had something of a Veteran’s Day Send-Off for themselves and the post. It was entertaining and well done for a unit activity, with plenty of food, beer, gluwein (warm, spiced wine traditional once it gets cold here… you sometimes start seeing it around August), and a bouncy castle.
I steered my warrant around the bouncy castle. It was not an easy task. Luckily, he was wearing shoes with laces today so I could convince him it was too much effort to take them off just to go in the bouncy castle. I promised him next time and then sincerely hoped I would be gone by the next time.
We made our way to the food, running into some of the unit members who were oddly allowed to have beer but not food, and found seats at the long fest benches. We just so happened to sit across from a rotating arsenal of membership representatives for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter.
I like the VFW. They contribute great things to veterans and their children and to society in general. They are fun to talk to, and when I find I have my membership card on me near a VFW hall the alcohol is cheap. Sometimes conversations can get a little confusing, particularly when they trail off and start another conversation with you about something you all of a sudden realized happened in Saigon but they are talking to you as though you were there with them, or when they follow a train of thought for five minutes before jumping back to finish a sentence from three topics ago, but really that doesn’t bother me having worked with Iraqis, Afghans, and my warrant, all of whom do the same thing.
So we chatted with a few of the gentlemen, most of them Korea or Vietnam veterans, and listened as they pitched lifetime VFW membership and the like. I happen to be planning on getting a lifetime membership sometime after my husband finishes paying for the new windows on the house, so I asked the nice man currently sitting at the table (he replaced the man who had four purple hearts from ‘Nam couldn’t hear so well… or balance so well, but that was probably also because of the four beers he consumed) for a business card. As he pulled out the card, he explained to us that there are meetings locally once a month.
I knew there was a VFW somewhere, because I have seen the members around at some events. I always figured they met off-post or in someone’s home or something. Shows where assuming gets you, as I shall explain:
“So you know the Burger King,” He says to my warrant and I.
“Sure. Only food place on post not run by the Army,” Says I.
“Okay, so you know the dining facility next door, right?” He says.
“Of course,” I says.
“There is a staircase on the side of the dining facility closest to the burger king. It goes down into the basement. Go down there on the first Tuesday of the month and we have our meetings there in the evening after dinner is over,” He says, now leaning in and speaking faster to accentuate the immediately creepy.
My reaction is mostly triggered because I have seen stairs going up in the dining facility, but not stairs going down. Most of the buildings around, with the exception of some of the Brigade and Garrison buildings with offices in the basements, have exceptionally creepy underground storage areas. Furthermore, I have never seen a VFW member on post when it was not an event, but he is telling me that once a month they gather in the basement and do whatever it is they do.
“Wait, what? Stairs? Basement room? Are you saying the VFW ‘Hall’ is a previously unknown room somewhere underneath the dining facility which we should visit after dark sometime?”
“Exactly! Don’t worry. The meetings are usually less than an hour. You’ll be out by 8pm.”
Yeah, if I ever leave at all… I reiterated that I would probably not get my membership until close to my departure, due to the windows escapade going on at my house in the states at the moment. Windows are expensive, after all. At this point, I made reference to the fact that I was from New Jersey, a topic which had previously been mentioned but, in true VFW veteran style, now needed to be revisited in depth. Once New Jersey was exhausted, he and his new friend, a jolly-looking fellow quietly sitting and eating his hot dogs (the chili cook-off hadn’t started yet… I’ll spoil the surprise and mention that we did not end up sticking around for it), asked what my heritage was. He was not satisfied with the “Mixed” response I tend to give, and then told me about a website where you can trace your lineage all the way back a few hundred years. He wrote it on the brown paper lining the table.
He explained (needlessly, upon examination of the web address) that it was a particular faith’s website, while methodically tapping the paper, circling the writing abstractly and occasionally making his point with a little dot near the top of the words. His previously quiet friend (who had been turned the other way watching something going on near the front of the hangar) quickly turned and jumped in with “I’m One!” at this point, nearly causing me to fall off the bench from my recoil to evade the hotdog that swung at a prescribed radius in front of him as he spun. He was not the gentleman who could not hear, and was stone cold sober. I braced myself.
Now, before anyone gets all uppity, I tend to love most of those I know of this particular faith. They are either very nice or what we call “Fallen Members” who were raised strict members but decided to break a tiny rule, perhaps eat or drink something wrong, and spiraled downhill back to the rest of us, and they are usually very fun. I have worked with several and find both types to be lovely to work with or hang around with, and have made and remained friends with more than a few because they seem to be everywhere in the Army. I don’t really buy anything they have to say about religion, but I feel that way about pretty much all religions, so no hard feelings, and I like how the nice ones are really just genuinely nice as a general rule. My issue is when people, regardless of faith, get creepy. I had the sense that was about to happen. My warrant officer smelled it as well and started edging to the end of the seat as we sought a potential exit. I love older people until they get crazy. This was heading in the wrong direction for anything less than that, so it was time to duck out. But when…?
We let him tell us how the site worked. We avoided eye contact when they started getting too deep into anything. My warrant then tried to make a comment about the religion. Dangerous move. They both glazed over, talked again about the website and how we should try it and enter our information into it, and asked us again to come on a Tuesday evening to the basement room below the dining facility. They then began to make no further reference to other topics than coming to the meeting, not even attempting to get me to commit to paying membership dues for the VFW. In fact, the very initials of VFW had not been mentioned in quite some time. We found a pause, stood up, promised to get in touch, shook hands, and made for the bouncy castle and behind it, the exit.
In the cool, free air we broke down what we had learned:
1) There is a basement room under the dining facility.
2) It may be a VFW hall.
3) There is no smell of alcohol in the area of which he speaks, so presumably no bar.
4) On certain Tuesday evenings, a small group of old men gather there and discuss things.
5) These men appear normal on the outside and for most conversations.
6) These men can turn on the crazy at the drop of a hat and it is hard, maybe impossible, to switch it back off.
We have thus, with the evidence at hand, decided that there is a secret, possibly religious society plotting nefarious deeds in the basement of our dining facility which may or may not be the VFW, though they all are seemingly members of the real one and using this as a cover. Many of them are over 60 years old and slowing down in the cold, but there has been “sewer reconstruction” lately in that area which we think may actually be part of the underground tunnel network they are working on to keep their arthritis at bay during the winter and to further their eventual goals. Perhaps the basement room is only indoctrination. We don’t know how far this goes…
I’ll still get my membership, but I am not going to a rumored basement room to get it. I’ll do it by mail or wait until I move in spring. I love the VFW, and encourage every combat veteran to support their local chapter and sign up and volunteer and help them out, but I am pretty sure if this supposed underground clubhouse had a bar I would have known about it by now, so just how real are these people? If this room even exists, I ask what’s a VFW with no bar? I think I need to examine the pins on their hats more closely…
This could be big, folks… big…
Of course, it’s all speculation based on a short conversation with some very genuinely nice gentlemen from an organization I love and respect, and both of us have watched a lot of movies involving scary basements and buildings with hidden rooms and tunnels. Way too many, probably. We only know about the stairs right now. How much more we intend to find out regarding the people under those stairs remains to be seen.