The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is known for providing community to veterans, but a pub crawl? That's the event created by mastermind Alfredo "Freddy" Rocha. As a new member of VFW #2224 in Puyallup, Rocha has been on a mission to educate his fellow veterans about the benefits of the VFW.
"I recently retired at the end of 2015 with twenty years and seven days in the Army," Rocha said, "and I wasn't ready to get out."
Rocha, like many other soldiers, found that he experienced a difficult time transitioning to a civilian world after twenty-plus years in the service.
People might view the VFW as an "old timers club," but according to Rocha, that couldn't be further from the truth.
"I had a hard time transitioning ... and felt left out, so for my 39th birthday, my wife bought me a lifetime membership," Rocha explained. "The VFW offers so much to veterans that younger guys don't know. I feel comfortable there. It's really what I was looking for. I want younger veterans to know about it."
Originally from California, an 18-year-old Rocha found himself at Ft. Lewis in 2001 and soon headed off to war.
"I feel like I grew up here," he said.
Now, he's on a mission to help others feel that sense of belonging after retirement and educate others about the VFW. Together with his wife, Rocha created the golf-themed 1st Annual Patriot Open Pub Crawl, which will be held May 20 in Puyallup.
"It's not about making money," Rocha said. "We're trying to let the community know we're still here. We are the faces of the veterans, the younger guys."
The event will kick off at noon at the 1st/2nd hole at Flanagan's, where organizers will raffle off Sounders tickets for a game the following week against the Timbers. Next up is the 3rd/4th hole at Wicked Pie. The 5th/6th hole will be at TK's Irish Pub followed by the 7th/8th hole at Scotty's. The event will conclude with the 9th hole at the VFW, where the grand prize of a 12-person party pack for the Tacoma Comedy Club will be raffled off to participants.
The entry fee is $10 per player. All proceeds benefit the VFW #2224 in Puyallup. There will be a total of six teams of four. Entry fee includes participation in the event, tickets for special raffles at each venue, a participation ribbon, hot dog and chips at the final hole, and a souvenir scorecard to commemorate the event.
Active-duty, retired, veterans and family members are encouraged to participate.
"I feel the younger generation of veterans (doesn't) know what the VFW offers," Rocha said. "I didn't. I felt lost. This place saved me. I know I am not the only one with this or a similar story."
To register, contact Rocha at email@example.com.