The John Lyon Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3150 recently installed Marine Corps veteran Nancy Springer as its commander. She is the first female commander of Post 3150 in its more than 85-year history.
Springer in 2017 retired as director of Logistics Distribution Policy Brand, Installations and Logistics, after a 30-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Sun Gazette recently checked in with the new commander to get her take on the current state of the Post and her plans for the future.
What led you to the VFW in general and to Post 3150 in particular?
When I retired from the Marine Corps in 2017, I suddenly did not have a military community around me for the first time in my adult life. I wanted to maintain that connection, and I thought the VFW was the best place to do that.
I had been a member-at-large, but now I wanted a more personal linkage to the organization. I thought that the VFW is comprised of people just like me, tied together by our common military experiences.
On the spur of the moment, I attended a monthly membership meeting at John Lyon Post, the post nearest my home. The post officers ran a very professional meeting, after which they made an extra effort to greet me and make me feel welcome. I was so impressed I started attending their events on a regular basis.
After only a couple months’ time, I was hooked, and I became a life member, one of the best decisions I made early in my retirement. I haven’t looked back since.
What made you want to rise up the leadership chain?
My path to my current position was not deliberate. I served as the post adjutant, the post’s administrative officer, during the 2018-19 VFW year and served this past year (2020-21) as one of the post’s trustees, who audit the Post’s financial records. One of my fellow Comrades nominated me for the Post Commander position and my fellow Comrades elected me during the subsequent election.
The post runs exclusively on volunteer power, and I was more than happy to volunteer my time and energy in service of the Post.
What are you goals during your term as commander, and do you think the post membership is ready to embark on the journey with you?
First and foremost, I want to provide a welcoming, home-like atmosphere at our Post home in the Colonial Village neighborhood.
My intermediate objectives, in order to achieve that goal, are ensuring financial and materiel sustainability, energizing our membership (both members who live in the local area and those who live throughout the country), developing a strategic plan, promoting open communications and transparency in our transactions – and having fun while doing it all!
After this challenging year, I do think the membership is ready to emerge from its COVID posture and start investing time and energy in the Post, in our veterans and in our surrounding community.
Do I think being the first female Commander in Post 3150 history, in addition to being a milestone, will have a tangible impact on Post operations?
I think it is unfortunate we even have to discuss this topic, and that no other woman has been the Post Commander in the 86-year history of John Lyon Post.
I honestly don’t know if my being a woman will impact post operations. Administering the Post is a group effort, relying on the volunteerism of all the members.
If anything, I hope my being in this position will encourage other women Veterans to join the VFW and John Lyon Post and signal that they are welcome here.
To someone who is eligible to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (and Post 3150, in particular), what would your 60-second “elevator speech” be to encourage them to do so ?
When servicemembers leave active duty, they likely will experience profound changes in the dynamic of their lives.
For some, that reality is a disconcerting, disorienting experience. For others, it’s not, but they still want to maintain a relationship with people who served in the military, just like they did.
I tell people who are leaving the military to connect with the VFW for camaraderie, opportunities to serve fellow veterans and the community, and assistance accessing earned benefits.
There is a niche for everyone at the VFW; we have all ages, all branches of service and a variety of ways to contribute. We all need community, and the VFW provides a comfortable environment in which veterans don’t have to explain themselves, their experiences or their memories. Everyone understands, and there is comfort in that.
Also, the Post has a partner Auxiliary organization that eligible family members may join, so the total experience may be a “family affair.”
Post 3150 is named in honor of John Lyon, who was killed in action in October 1918. Is there a way to make Arlingtonians more aware of this native son, and others who gave their lives in service of our country?
I think more publicity from a more aggressive advertising campaign would better inform the public of this forever-young Arlingtonian who made the ultimate sacrifice in the waning days of World War I.
Lt. Lyon posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest decoration for valor, while attempting to save a fellow soldier in October 1918. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, members of the John Lyon VFW Post 3150 lay a commemorative wreath at the Cherrydale World War I Honor Roll Memorial that displays his name and the names of other Arlingtonians who fell in the war. I encourage the public to join us and observe this ceremony.
One of your remarks upon taking office was that “no one wants to join or support a downbeat organization focused on drudgery.” What are your plans for making the VFW experience a positive, exciting one for each and every member?
First, I am personally contacting the members to introduce myself and to get their feedback on how the Post can better support them and other veterans. There is a lot of truth in the saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know you care,” and there’s really no substitute for a personal connection. I want to see the positive possibilities in every situation and encourage others to do the same.
Having a personal relationship will make it easier to convey a “glass-half-full” attitude to everyone and to continually get constructive criticism. I think people give their opinions and offer input to those whom they know, not to names they may see in impersonal written material.
The Post is the members and the members are the Post. It’s very powerful and exciting when people identify with the organization to which they belong and realize the ability to mold it into what they want actually lay with them. That’s the overarching environment I’d like to develop and then leverage to empower the members, enabling each one to unleash his/her unique skills and experiences for the betterment of the Post.