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Standing for generations to come: VFW Post 9191 seeks historical designation

Posted at 11:19 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 02:08:52-05

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has a long history in the United States but Killeen's Post 9191 has a special place in history among them all.

As soon as the first tent stakes were driven into the ground after World War II, Post 9191 stood apart from other VFW posts that came before it.

"It’s known as the first negro VFW," said Willie Keller, Retired U.S Army SFC. "My grandfather was a member of the post and he resided in Alabama after WWII but his membership was here because he could not patronize any other VFW in the world."

The post received its first charter in 1949 but Keller said black service members were meeting on the property before then.

"A minimum of two years prior and acquired the property before that," said Keller. "It just had a Quonset hut and it was named San Jacinto Post 9191.”

A fire destroyed San Jacinto Post 9191 nearly a decade later but out of the ashes rose a new one in its place. It was renamed after the first African American general in the Army, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis.

That is the name it held when James Washington, a retired Vietnam War veteran, joined the post during a tour of duty in Vietnam more than twice that of the average soldier.

"Vietnam was actually a 12-month tour for most people but not everybody had a 12-month tour, I had a 38-month tour,” said Washington.

A tour of over three years wasn’t that common unless you were like Washington who was both special forces and a MAC-V advisor.

"That’s Military Assistance Command, it meant that you lived with the Vietnamese and you supported them,” said Washington.

When Washington and the other black soldiers served in Vietnam, Post 9191 was still the only VFW they could go to.

"Excuse my language but a lot of white people were saying the best place for you to go is the colored post," said Washington. "I said 'What you mean colored post?"

Washington said he had to bear with the time and move on.

"That’s all you could do. You couldn’t do nothing else,” said Johnnie Wimes Jr., retired U.S. Army SSG and Vietnam veteran.

The struggle, history, and service to the community are why past and current commanders are now asking the Texas government to designate Post 9191 as a historical site.

"Not only was it the first Black VFW in the organization, it’s been a part of this community for over 60-years," said Eddie Sherman, Commander of VFW Post 9191. "There's a lot of deep history here. Generations have grown up coming through this VFW.”

For the members of Post 9191, declaring it a historical site is about more than just the post its self, it’s about what it means to the community.

”You know every town has to have some pride - that they wrap themselves around those handful of things that say 'This is us," said Sherman. "For the Marlboro Heights community, this VFW is one of those pillars for them.”

Post 9191 was originally known as "The black soldiers VFW" but over 70 years later, veterans say it's time for that stigma to fade into the history books.

"Since that time, it has changed. There’s no such thing as black VFW,” said Wimes.

"It’s not like that now. I mean, it’s open to every nationality you see, that’s what it’s open to,” said Washington.

Like all other VFW’s, the members of Post 9191 know what it takes to create a safe haven, welcoming all those who served their country with open arms.

"All the young soldiers come on and join; male, female, whatever, come on and join,” said Washington.

In one form or another, VFW Post 9191 has stood proudly in Killeen since 1947, and its veterans are fighting to make it an official part of Texas history.