VFW Post 9892
Military Order of the Cootie Puptent #7
How the Cooties Came to Be
The MOC can trace its
ancestry to the Imperial Order of the Dragon - a similar fun-loving auxiliary
that was affiliated with the United Spanish American War Veterans (USAWV). After
World War I, two veterans who were members of both the USAWV and the VFW thought
that the VFW might be able to attract more members if it formed an auxiliary
modeled on the Imperial Order of the Dragon. These men, Fred Madden and F.L.
Gransbury, began recruiting members for the new auxiliary on September 17, 1920,
at the VFW National Encampment in Washington, D.C. By the end of the encampment,
nearly 300 members had been enrolled, and Fred Madden had become the first Seam
Squirrel (commander). Later that year, a complete slate of officers was
assembled and ratified at a special meeting held in Cavalry Baptist Church in
New York City. Madden developed a constitution and by-laws while Gransbury
authored the ritual. (Together with the official uniform, these were approved in
In the years after its
founding, the MOC took on several special projects designed to bring smiles to
the faces of two special groups of people - hospitalized veterans and residents
of the VFW National Home. Its involvement with the National Home came first. In
fact, the Cooties were the first to back Amy Ross's plan for the Home, and, in
1924, helped persuade the VFW to sponsor the project. Since then, there has
never been a period of any extended length in which the Cooties have not been
involved in some project for the Home's betterment or for the happiness of those
who live there.
Shortly after the Home
was established, the Cooties began the tradition of sponsoring the Home's annual
Christmas party. They took it upon themselves to make sure the residents had
Christmas presents and a Christmas dinner, and also that Cootie volunteers were
always on hand to help organize and run the party. Then in 1933, the MOC
received permission from the VFW National Encampment to
build an athletic field at the National Home. Over the next few years, the
Cooties raised $15,000 for the field, which was dedicated in 1941. No sooner had
they finished paying for the field than the Cooties took on construction of an
outdoor swimming pool. Before this pool was dedicated in September 1950, the
Cooties had drummed up over $8,000 more than the $40,000 needed to build it.
The next major Home
project was the brainchild of two Cooties, Collin Small and Charles Millard of
Ohio's Buckeye Pup Tent (local unit) No.2. Their "Operation Fire
Department" called for the MOC to give the Home a fire truck and a building
to house it, then train some of the older boys in fire fighting techniques. A
Home fire department, they reasoned, could give a much faster response time to
Home emergencies than fire departments of the surrounding towns. This operation
was completed in 1950, during Supreme Commander Ernie Moore's term.
Subsequently, the Grand (Cootie equivalent of a VFW state department) of
Maryland undertook the continual upgrading of the Home's real Fire Department by
raising the necessary funding through the sale of mythical commissions in a
mythical "National Home Fire Department." These fees allow the Grand
of Maryland to make contributions towards the National Home Fire Department's
needs on an ongoing basis.
At the 64th Scratch in
1985, the MOC approved the establishment of a Supreme Escrow Account as an
incentive for the National Home's children to further their education beyond
high school. Upon completion of a four-year college course, a student receives a
check for $500 for each year attended. A $250 reward is given for each year
courses are completed in a trade school or community college.
As dear to a Cootie's
heart as its National Home projects are, auxiliary members support its program
for hospitalized veterans with equal enthusiasm. This program got its start in
the 1940's, when auxiliary members realized that World War II would soon fill
the hospitals with sick and wounded veterans. To help these veterans keep their
spirits up, many Cooties took it upon themselves to entertain the patients. Soon
Cooties all over the country were visiting hospitalized veterans, pledging to
"Keep 'em Smiling in Beds of White." Today this goal is still one of
the auxiliary's highest priorities. Many Pup Tents and their Auxiliaries not
only work with VAVS Hospital teams, but also perform services of their own at VA
Hospitals and nursing homes. Thousands of Cootie hours and thousands of dollars
are donated each year in carrying out this program.
Although MOC and ladies
auxiliary members enjoy all Cootie activities - from supporting the National
Home to visiting hospitalized veterans to helping out the VFW - members also
engage in many activities that are designed solely for their entertainment.
These include the method by which they govern their meetings and various
procedures followed within them. To describe these methods and some of the other
ways Cooties have fun would violate their bylaws, but it is possible to provide
a glimpse of how Cooties sometimes have fun in public.
Picture Main Street in a
Midwestern city of about 25,000 residents on a sunny Saturday morning in June.
The sidewalks are crowded with shoppers, and traffic on the two-lane
thoroughfare is almost bumper to bumper. Three men in Cootie uniforms, the lights on their vests winking, are
sauntering down the sidewalk in front of the city's largest department store.
Suddenly, one of the men
glances heavenward and mumbles, "Oh, my God." The other two look
upward. As if they are watching the descent of a falling leaf, all three slowly
lower their heads until they are staring at the ground. Taking small manuals
from their hip pockets, the three sit down in a circle on the sidewalk, legs
crossed and feet tucked under. Opening the manuals, they begin reading the
service for a dead Cootie (most of it ad libbed as they go along).
Gradually a crowd
gathers around the men, some of it overflowing into the street. As the crowd
grows and traffic comes almost to a standstill, two policemen approach to
determine the cause of the blockage.
One of the officers
glances at the seated trio, then informs them, "You've got three minutes to
get him planted, then move on." As a knowledgeable member of the VFW, the
officer has quickly sized up the situation. Shaking his head, the officer
mutters, "Crazy Cooties," and walks back to his partner.
Attracted by this offbeat brand of humor and the Cooties' light-hearted approach to problem-solving, at present there are about 37,000 Cooties in 1,000 Pup tents. Membership is open to members in good standing in the VFW who have displayed their willingness to work for the parent organization. The Military Order of the Cootie Auxiliary (MOCA) draws its membership from the ranks of women eighteen and older who have been active members of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary for at least six months and who are the wife, widow, sister, half-sister, daughter, foster daughter, or granddaughter of an active VFW member in good standing. Today there are approximately 17,000 auxiliary members contained in 597 Pup Tents.