Veterans Memorial Building home to VFW Post 10965 and American Legion Post 0050

PASO ROBLES — With several military bases in San Luis Obispo County, two of which are in North County, there are thousands of veterans in our region. However, local veteran organizations are seeking more veteran involvement, especially from the younger generations. 

Both based in the Veterans Memorial Building on Scott Street in Paso Robles, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10965 and American Legion Post 0050 provide support for local veterans. With the unfortunate loss of older generations from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, there has been a drastic decline in membership for the organizations. 

“A lot of the younger vets aren’t aware [of VFW] because they aren’t involved yet, but that is something they are trying to change,” explains VFW Post 10965 Commander Leo Castillo. 

VFW is a nonprofit organization formed by veterans in 1899 to advocate for rights and benefits. Initially aiding veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection, it now comprises 1.4 million members. The VFW played a key role in establishing the Veterans Administration and advocating for various veterans’ rights, including compensation for Agent Orange exposure and improved medical services. They support the construction of memorials and offer programs for veterans and their families globally. Core values of the nonprofit include prioritizing members, honoring service, and fostering patriotism while respecting diverse opinions.

Charted and incorporated by Congress in 1919, the American Legion was established as a veteran organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. They are the largest wartime veterans service organization committed to mentoring youth and sponsoring programs in their communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans. 

Together, the veteran organizations work to bring more awareness to their building and services. 

American Legion Commander Chris Rhorberg explains the importance of their organizations, “Part of it is being with people that have been through the same experience as you. Veterans tend to hang out with veterans, and if we come together, we can talk to each other.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, in 2021, there was an average of 17.5 veteran suicide deaths in the nation. That data alone is why a lot of VFW and American Legion members keep coming back — to be an ear or just company for someone who might be struggling. 

Veteran Tom Place explains the dynamic between Vietnam veterans and wanting assistance from organizations like theirs. During and following Vietnam, veterans did not receive a warm welcome home like their predecessors. Instead, the controversial political climate over the war overshadowed the sacrifices made by the military men and women who fought during the Vietnam War. That experience has led many of the veterans of that era to not want help or anything to do with a veteran organization. But, Place explains, their hall can provide help with understanding benefits and getting help with medical aid that is needed for many veterans as a result of their time served.

“They are struggling for different reasons each day. Why can’t we be there to help?” asks member Timothy Francis. 

At the Paso Robles Veterans Memorial Building, representatives from the SLO County Veteran Services are available Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist veterans with their benefits. 

“Too often we hear of people who have been going through decades-long problems that they never went to the VA (Veteran Affairs) to find out if they were covered,” says Rhorberg.

Besides offering camaraderie and assistance with benefits, the VFW and American Legion are lobbyists for veteran rights in Congress. 

“Our organizations have a bigger seat at the table at Congress to be able to speak about the concerns and problems that vets go through,” says Castillo, who told Paso Robles Press about four bills they are lobbying Congress to pass. 

Currently, VFW is lobbying for the following:

  • H.R. 1139 / S. 740, GUARD VA Benefits Act, to reinstate penalties for charging veterans and survivors unauthorized fees relating to claims for VA benefits.
  • H.R. 4157 /S. 928, Not Just a Number Act, to direct VA to incorporate benefit usage data into its annual suicide prevention report, and to examine moving the office of suicide prevention to the enterprise level at VA.
  • H.R. 3933/ S. 2888, TAP Promotion Act, to require accredited representatives from national, state, and local organizations to be included in TAP classes.
  • H.R. 1282 / S. 344, Major Richard Star Act, either as a standalone bill or via the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2025 to enable Chapter 61 retirees who sustained combat-related injuries to receive their vested DOD retirement pay and VA disability compensation without offset.

Together, the veteran organizations have worked to make the hall more family-oriented than the traditional vet’s hall your pops may have attended. 

On Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the American Legion cooks for the public, selling hamburgers and chips for $8 every week. The hall is also open to the public to rent for events. They are currently working to brainstorm how to bring in the younger veterans and create new community events for veterans and family.

“I want the community to know that these veterans served for a purpose and are still here,” says Castillo, who hopes to see patriotism and support for veterans increase.

The Paso Robles Veterans Memorial Building is located at 240 Scott Street, Paso Robles. You can learn more information on the VFW here 

Learn more about the American Legion here


2024 Paso Vets Halls | Camille DeVaul.jpg

(From left) Lydia and Timothy Francis, American Legion Commander Chris Rhorberg, VFW Commander Leo Castillo, Tom Place, and Scott Witt stand in front of the Veterans Memorial Building in Paso Robles. Photo by Camille DeVaul