On Sept. 29 we celebrate 105 years of achievement; 105 years of service, dedication, commitment, concern and patriotism. On that day, we celebrate Veterans of Foreign Wars Day and the 105 years of continued service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States to our nation and to our communities.
The VFW is more than just a veteran's organization; it's a rallying force for all Americans. Through our programs and projects we serve veterans, their families, our communities and our nation. We address the major issues of our times through a dynamic legislative program and provide Congress with information on what our active duty military and veterans need in the way of support and entitlements, and then as an organization, we move that legislation through Congress and onto the President's desk. Through our National Security and Foreign Affairs program we work to ensure that America has a strong national defense and a firm foreign policy. As veterans, we do not want to see what was won at such great cost in wartime lost in peacetime.
Through our many projects, we meet the needs of our times. When troops were sent to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan, the VFW was there to coordinate, collect and send needed items. And when those troops return, the VFW is there to welcome them back into our communities. These two efforts carry on a tradition of care and concern for those on active duty that goes back to our founding in 1899. Through our emphasis on the POW/MIA program, we strive to ensure that no soldier, sailor, airman or marine is ever left behind and that the families of those valiant warriors receive the closure that is so richly deserved.
To highlight just a few other accomplishments of this past year, community service projects provided over 18 million hours of volunteer service and the VFW and its Auxiliary members spent or donated nearly $80 million to complete these projects. The Voice of Democracy high school audio essay contest provided more than $2.6 million in college scholarships. VFW service officers handled over 124,000 claims, resulting in over $860 million in recovered entitlements and Missouri's VFW service officers are leading the nation in the numbers of claims processed and entitlements recovered. The Buddy Poppy program raised more than $15 million that is used for service programs and relief for needy veterans.
On Sept. 29, as we celebrate VFW Day and its 105th year of continued service, we stand on the threshold of the next 100 years, and we are well aware that we will continue to be contributors to that next 100 years in the history of the VFW and of this nation.
We would like to publicly recognize all those VFW and Auxiliary volunteers who have so graciously donated of their time and service during our first century, and challenge current membership, and those who may be eligible for membership, to rise to meet the demands of our second century. If you have an overseas campaign ribbon or received imminent danger pay or are related to someone who has, we invite you to join our ranks to meet those needs and demands in the coming years. Your local Post membership can provide you with further information.
We pray that we can be successful in our time as our founders were back in 1899, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Veterans of Foreign Wars