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Kent April 15, 2021

Shattering glass ceilings at Dover’s VFW Post 5444

The Millerton News Editorial

The best thing about Navy 3rd Class CS3 veteran Madison Fletcher’s promotion to commander of the VFW Post 5444 in Dover Plains is probably that she “never really considered it being about male versus female.”

Fletcher, who tells just about everyone she’s ever chatted with for more than a minute to call her “Maddie,” said the magnitude of the being elected the first female to lead the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for those who live in the towns of Dover, Amenia and surrounding Harlem Valley communities in its 42-year history, struck her as almost an afterthought.

“I never really put it into perspective,” she said after being officially voted in on Thursday, April 1. “It’s a person thing, but having females come up to me and say, ‘You’re the first female, that’s awesome, we support you 100%,’ and seeing the joy on their faces, that means more to me than being the first female.”

Fletcher has come to recognize that the road she is paving for those who follow is significant, as she can serve as a role model for other females potentially considering serving in the military — once only open to male applicants — who may later join veterans’ organizations like the VFW. While the VFW began “qualifying” women for membership in 1921, it didn’t formally admit females until 1978. 

The Navy veteran’s new role at Post 5444 will undoubtedly serve to inspire girls of all ages — including her 9-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. Fletcher wants to prove to all women in the area that they, too, can make their mark in other male-dominated fields. Hopefully those who learn of her story (to do so, read this week’s front page article) will appreciate the positive experience she had moving up the ranks at the Dover VFW. 

In fact, Fletcher said she was fully supported by her mostly male comrades — 89 of them, in fact — as well as the only other female veteran at the Post — throughout her journey: During her six years she moved from being merely on Post 5444’s roster to being an official member to being its first female senior vice commander in 2020-21 to now, becoming its first female commander-elect (due to be sworn in on Thursday, May 6). She was unanimously elected when voted in -— unanimously.

Only a single person gave Fletcher grief about being a woman in charge of the traditionally male-run veterans’ organization — and that person was neither a man nor a veteran — which both surprised the commander-elect and momentarily put doubts in her head — but only momentarily.

“Every other person I spoke with, all of the other veterans, male and female, all supported me. They were like, we got your back no matter what happens… and it’s not an issue now,” she said. “They all cheered for me and gave me hugs. My mom and dad texted me, and my step-dad texted me and said, ‘You know what, we are super proud of you.’”

It was even one of the Post’s veterans with a reputation for being rough around the edges who initially nominated Fletcher last month for the commander position. She said she was taken aback when she heard his gruff voice shout her name from the back of the room, and was overwhelmed by the show of support and confidence he had in her leading the Post — something that has historically always been done by a man, and usually a much older man at that. 

Not only will Fletcher be the first female in charge of Dover’s VFW, at 34 she will be one of the youngest -— if not the youngest — commanders in Post 5444’s history. It’s a role she relishes taking on, and one she hopes to hold for many years to come.

Fletcher spoke about what she values most in being a part of the VFW and tried to describe what it’s like to belong to Post 5444.

“It’s a family,” she said. “In the military, we have a different bond than other people… [We] have this camaraderie, without a doubt… my post is my priority.”

That much is crystal clear, as is that under Fletcher’s guidance, VFW Post 5444 will be in very capable hands. 

To learn more about the national VFW, its history and its mission, go to www.vfw.org; to learn more about VFW Post 5444, call 845-877-6300 or go to Facebook, to www.facebook.com/VFWAuxiliary5444.

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