Post 12097's founder and current adviser, Marlene Roll, 48, who was stationed in Oman as an operating-room technician during Operation Desert Storm, said she hesitantly began the push to form the post in 2010 after ascending through the mostly male hierarchy of the V.F.W., where she saw the difficulties faced by women in the military.
"It was an effort to sort of draw them out of the woodwork," Ms. Roll
With a gavel and laptop, the post's commander, Beth Maddigan, an Army reservist who served with Ms. Roll in Oman, led the meeting.
WEST SENECA, N.Y. (AP) - As one of the few female officers in New York's Veterans of Foreign Wars organization
, Marlene Roll
heard the questions all the time: Why don't more women join the VFW?
How can we change that?
set out to start the nation's first female VFW post, it turned out the answers had to do not only with gender, but generation.
"For years, it was really a loss for me as to what the issues were, why women weren't coming in," said Roll, a former sergeant in the Army Reserves who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm before joining the VFW in 1991.
found that women returning from war to juggle jobs, kids and continuing training aren't looking for a place to view their military service in the rear-view mirror, like the servicemen from past generations who make up the bulk of membership in the nation's oldest and largest combat veterans' organization.
And those "men's clubs" weren't necessarily the place for female discussions about current issues like breast cancer concerns from war-zone burn pits.
"I really hated the idea of putting the glass ceiling back in place by giving (women) their own post," said Roll, Erie County's Veterans Service Agency director.
It's also assigned a chairwoman to every state to be in contact with women veterans, Roll said.
and DeRouche hope volunteers come forward as auxiliary members to help out.
, who helped form the woman-focused post in the town of West Seneca, N.Y., near Buffalo, said some posts don't do much to make women feel welcome.
heard the stories of women bringing their discharge papers in, only to be told to go to the Ladies Auxiliary.