State Sr Vice Commander Jeff Carroll
Someone asked me a few weeks ago why we, in the VFW, wear our hats indoors when we were always taught not to do so in the military. It seems like we're doing the exact opposite of what we were taught in the military. That got me to thinking... I looked online and I can find information on the "overseas" cap and it's origins. It came about because, when deployed, it was easy to travel with and it was originally only used by those who were deployed overseas. So it makes perfect sense why the VFW chose to use this cap for theirs. But I couldn't find anything on why we wear the cap indoors.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) is a fraternal organization. We are about camaraderie; it is the first purpose listed among those of our corporation. And that means something. It means something in that we are comrades that share a particular bond with each other. Our cap (hat, cover, etc...) is the identifying aspect of that comradeship. When you see the VFW cap on someone you instantly share a bond. So the cap is, in effect, our uniform. It denotes our post, our position, and often some of our service. The VFW cap is the one consistent dress item that pulls us together. Likewise, our meetings are generally indoors, the post meeting being the primary membership meeting. It makes sense that wearing the VFW cap strengthens the comradeship among the members and promotes a sense of inclusion and teamwork. A meeting with no caps could be any kind of a group, but when we see that sea of VFW caps in a meeting, we know we are among comrades. It should be noted that we do not wear our VFW cap when eating.
As an example of how unifying the VFW cap is, we need only look to prayers offered during meetings. In the By-Laws, under the General Rules, 13(b), it says "members will follow the action of the Chaplain or presiding officer relative to removal of caps during prayers". So if the Chaplain, for whatever reason, leaves their cap on, we all should keep our caps on as well. We are a team. If some people are removing their caps and others aren't, it affects the appearance of the team and, subsequently, our perceived professionalism and comradeship.
And speaking of the "team," when the public sees VFW caps in a group, they know we are a like-minded team; an organization rather than just a group of people. Perceptions speak loudly, and our uniform cap helps to paint a picture of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Likewise, when we are out in force, whether 3 or 30, the public notices. People realize that the VFW is out there doing good in the community.
So, while we are all military veterans, we are not a military organization. We are a fraternal organization and as such we follow fraternal bylaws and customs. And one of our strongest fraternal customs is that we wear our VFW cap indoors and outdoors when engaged in VFW activities.