Under new leadership, the downtown Renton Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1263 is gaining national recognition for the first time in almost 20 years.
This year Post 1263 received “All State and All American status,” honors it hasn’t achieved since 2001.
John Rickenbach started as post commander at the downtown VFW in 2018. He’s also active-duty military, traveling the world while he’s boosting the post’s community presence.
The “All American and All State” status is a badge of honor, Rickenbach said, especially receiving these achievements from the state and national commanders.
“It shows we’re very serious about what we stand for; to help veterans and families in the local community,” he said.
The reason the post was able to achieve this status was Rickenbach increasing its involvement in the community, being proactive to help veterans and reminding Renton the downtown VFW is still here. He said he took the job and ran with it to make sure the post helps locals at-large.
The VFW post has been in Renton since 1933.
Rickenbach said he stays commander while traveling because he’s passionate for the post and wants to make sure it’s a staple in the Renton community for the next 85 years.
“I hope we can maintain what the VFW stands for,” Rickenbach said.
For “All-State and All-American,” the post needed to submit essay entries from students for Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen, submit a local first responder for judging in a statewide contest for recognition, purchase “Buddy” Poppies, have 100 members and demonstrate community service time and hospital volunteer time.
Post 1263 submitted youth essays and submitted first and third place out of 13 local districts, then had one essay writer make it to state. The post also offers free dinners around holidays for the local community, provides assistance to local veterans in need using donations and all while maintaining attendance. In a recent Christmas dinner, a mother and her four-year-old attended and the child met Santa Claus for the first time. Later Rickenbach learned they had been living in their car.
“Those types of engagements with the local area we have, those are positive things I like to showcase with the post,” Rickenbach said. “Granted, those are small opportunities that we get to shine, but we like to nail them home when we do.”
The post has also been involved in Renton River Days and other local events.
Rickenbach said the community has been reaching back in return. Random volunteers walk up to help maintain the building and surrounding area— it’s a 1920s structure that went through a fire a few years ago. Another person donated a parking lot to the post.
More information about the post is at VFW1263.org.