Doug Thompson can’t help but to get emotional talking about his father, a Vietnam veteran.
“That whole generation was treated poorly when they returned from overseas,” he said. “He was hesitant even giving me his military information to join the VFW Auxiliary because he didn’t know exactly what it was going to entail.”
Last year at this time, Thompson, a former Department of Defense contractor with a deep family military background who worked in Kuwait and Iraq, wasn’t even eligible to join the VFW Auxiliary, formerly known as the Lady’s Auxiliary, a support organization for the Post side. However, in last July, a historic change was voted upon by delegates at the 116th National Convention in Pittsburgh to open up Auxiliary memberships to eligible males.
Since then Thompson, who currently works as a boat and jet ski rental manager at Bridgeport and also does some sales and marketing for A&Z Home Restoration, has been accepted into the Auxiliary in Camdenton as its’ first male member, but he didn’t stop there. By last February he was senior vice president, and a few months ago was approached about becoming President.
“It’s a totally different thing, and that’s why it’s unique,” Thompson said. “Right now, from what we understand, I’m the only male president in the state of Missouri, right now, from what we understand, the only one in the nation as a male president.”
The national chapter is planning to feature Thompson in their July newsletter and he’s curious to find out if he’s the only male president in the country.
“There’s probably got to be someone else somewhere if you go across the nation,” Thompson said. “I’m interested in finding out who it is and if I am the only one then I am very interested. That’s a good thing to show the kids, you know look at what dad did.”
Growing up in central Illinois, Thompson had thought about joining the military like his father, but a diagnosis of asthma prevented him from doing so. Instead, he decided to become an EMT and firefighter in 1989 before going to work overseas for DOD in 2009.
“Over there I was very well connected to the military, to the structure, to the VFW,” Thompson said. “We thought I could get in there but it was like no you need to have the military paperwork.”
Former Post Surgeon and member, Keith Lucas met Thompson at Camdenton’s annual Run for the Fallen, which honors soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. After walking and talking, the two became instant friends and Lucas tried to get him into the Post. When that wasn’t possible, the Auxiliary was the perfect solution.
“It is great that he is a male for the single reason that it brings more awareness to fact that any husband, father, son, grandson, great grandson or brother or a war veteran can join our Auxiliary,” Lucas said. “The more members we have in our post and auxiliary, the more good for veterans and our community we can do.”
Currently, the Auxiliary has more than 465,000 members which provide fundraising aid to veterans, volunteer time at hospitals and nursing centers, and contribute greatly to the overall operations of the Post.
“Through the years, the two groups became more separated. Many factors played into this,” Lucas said. “Our post has changed a lot in the past two to three years with new faces and leadership, and the unity is starting to come back. We hope to return to the days of strong unity between the groups.”
Thompson said he never had a footprint at the Lake of the Ozarks until he divorced in 2010 and would spend trips back from overseas at the Lake hanging with his four kids, one of his favorite things to do. Nowadays, Thompson splits time between the Lake and Chicago where he is an extra actor on several network shows including Crisis, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Empire, playing the part of a police officer, firefighter or paramedic.
He’s already been helping the Post with their new building project and hopes to take a hands-on leadership role when he is officially confirmed as President at the state convention in Springfield in June. For him, the service is an honor to his father who has come around on the idea since their original conversation.
“He’s very proud of his son,” Thompson said. “So I plan on doing some good things here. How it’s designed now it’s going to be men and women supporting the Post together, doing community stuff together, and functions with each other instead of separately.”