SHOW LOW — The White Mountains has been chosen as the location for the Department of Arizona VFW and Auxiliary Fall Conference this year. The two day meeting, Sept. 25 and 26 will be held at the Show Low Elks Lodge. Around 100 to 150 individuals from around the state will arrive on the Mountain for training, a dinner and awards presentation and a Council of Administration business meeting.

The Fall Conference expects to have someone from national at the event to speak and they are hopeful they will also have a POW guest speaker.

On a local level, two auxiliary members are already well acquainted with those on the state level.

Melody Judd from Show Low Post 9907 is the outgoing state president and Brenda Kay Kinghorn from Pinetop-Lakeside Post 2364 was just elected to the state office as conductress.

Judd, who was recognized as the outgoing state president for Arizona at the 108th National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri last month, was presented the coveted Circle of Excellence Award. The award represents proven leadership by a president for their exemplary work in their role.

Judd began her term as president just as the pandemic had hit so the year was a long year. Judd said the role of president, though you serve in that capacity for one year, actually carries with it an eight year commitment.

She first served the state as conductress, then chaplain, then junior vice commander, senior vice commander and president — all one year terms. Now, she will serve three years on the Council of Administration which will total eight years.

The year before Melody was state president, her husband Tom was state commander.

“Together we traveled five times across the country,” said Melody. “We went everywhere but Hawaii and Alaska.”

Though she is now serving on the Council of Administration, she is also the program coordinator for the department whereby she edits all promotions and events from around the state. She keeps a running total of all the auxiliaries do and tabulates those numbers so they can be counted when the national VFW presents before Congress to show all they do for their veterans.

Kinghorn, who is now working towards her eight year commitment, will be state president in five years as she stair-steps the other roles leading to that office.

She was also recognized at the National Convention last month as chairman for historian and media relations. She won the Outstanding Performance Second Place Award, Western Conference, Division 8.

“I am very proud of her,” said Melody. “You are competing with other states, so this is a big deal. I can’t wait to give her award to her at Fall Conference next weekend.”

Kinghorn’s entry was a video she made of Melody’s year as president which was a surprise for Melody.

“I saw it for the first time at the National Convention. I could not see it until then. It is absolutely beautiful and it brought me to tears.”

Like Melody and Tom, Kinghorn’s husband, Doug, is also active in the VFW. He is the local president of Post 2364’s District 6 auxiliary.

Brenda is also in charge of the youth activities for the state.

If there is a VFW event happening on the Mountain, you will see Melody, Tom, Brenda or Doug involved in it.

The VFW is a non-profit veteran’s organization open to U.S. veterans of overseas conflicts. To be a member you have to be a US citizen or US National; have served in the U.S. Armed Forces or are currently serving; have an honorable discharge, or a general discharge under honorable conditions; and have served in a war, campaign, or expedition on foreign soil or hostile waters.

The VFW Auxiliary is open to any family member of a VFW-qualified service member. The auxiliary exists to help improve the lives of veterans, service members and their families and the communities. Through fundraising and advocacy they provide a variety of needed services, information and assistance to these groups.

The VFW offers a number of scholarships for students and members’ families through essays like Voice of Democracy, Patriot’s Pen, art contests and others.

The VFW State Fall Conference has a full day of training programs to ensure the success of the many programs that the VFW has for their membership.

The Fall Conference trains on all programs and offers ideas that members can take back to their communities to implement. Members are provided leadership training and taught how to mentor to other members to help them come up through the ranks to serve; media relations; care-giving for the vet; help for the homeless veteran; and legislative issues — just to name a small number of the things they do.

The post and the auxiliaries offer flag education, information on VFW’s National Home for Children which serves children of vets and their families. It is totally supported by the VFW. They also cover the annual Buddy Poppy program so familiar to the public.

Judd said her year as president was a wonderful experience. She is really grateful that the Fall Conference is in Show Low this year rather than Phoenix or Lake Havasu after all the traveling she and Tom have done.

“We needed a breather,”said Melod. “Now I will get to have the best accommodations anywhere — my own home.”

VFW Post 9907 and Post 2364 both have Facebook pages with their contact information for anyone who would like to find out more about membership,services or events which they invite the public to participate in.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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