The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans' pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves. 
In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations with what would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000. 

Since then, the VFW's voice had been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, the development of the national cemetery system and the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, VFW won a long-fought victory with the passing of a GI Bill for the 21st Century, giving expanded educational benefits to America's active-duty service members, and members of the Guard and Reserves, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The VFW also has fought for improving VA medical centers services for women veterans.

Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, the VFW in 2005 became the first veterans' organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in November 2010.

Annually, the nearly 2 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute more than 8.6 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week. 

From providing over $3 million in college scholarships and savings bonds to students every year, to encouraging elevation of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the president's cabinet, the VFW is there.

John H. Kraus was a hard worker from a poor family in Danvers who wanted to serve his country and sought an adventure away from his life as a farm hand.  His family was poor.  His father died at age 39, and John's mother Fredricka had moved herself and her children from Maryland to Danvers to be close to her own mother.  Times were tough and everyone in the family had to work to make ends meet.

John enlisted (February 27, 1917) in the U.S. Army during World War I at the age of 16.  He had to wait a year for his widowed mother's permission to actually join the service and leave her and his five siblings behind.  The day he left for the Army, his mother said goodbye to him at 6 a.m. because she had to leave to wash clothes for another family.  John went to bid farewell to his grandmother and borrow $1 so he could take a train from Danvers to Bloomington and perhaps keep some spare change in his pocket for the trip.

John travelled west to Douglas, Arizona and then later to New York.  He sailed to Europe with Pershing's men in the First Division, 18th Infantry.  Eventually, John H. Kraus made it to France where he fought at Chateau ThierryMontdidier and Soissons.  He served as a soldier in World War I for about 13 months before he was killed on July 18, 1918, in battle with the Germans in Soissons.  Ironically, John H. Kraus died while fighting soldiers from his parent's homeland.

It was a month before a telegram employee delivered notice of his death to his mother, who broke down in tears.  It was another three years before the body of John Henry Kraus would arrive home to be buried in Danvers at the Park Lawn Cemetery.

John Henry Kraus was the first Serviceman from McLean County to make the Supreme Sacrifice on the Battle Field during World War I.  A thousand people attended the service in the Danvers Village Park.  The people came from StanfordMinierCarlockCongervilleBloomington and other cities in the surrounding area to pay their respects.

In May 1920, VFW Post 454 was named in Honor of PFC John H. Kraus.  VFW Post 454 has accorded full military graveside rites at the Park Lawn Cemetery every year (except two) since 1921.

The members of VFW Post 454 are proud to honor PFC John Henry Kraus and all others, who have given the Supreme Sacrifice to this great country, The United States of America.


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