Meet Tommy Tradewell ...


Tommy Tradewell started on the path to a life dedicated to helping veterans in the eighth grade. That’s when his teacher—a VFW member of the very same Milwaukee area Post where Tommy is now a member—had the boys marching on the playground. In high school, he remembers watching the VFW honor guards marching in the Veterans Day parade and thinking “I’d like to do that one day.”

Drafted during the Vietnam War, Tradewell had the dangerous but important job of combat demolition specialist (minesweeper). Although he came home, many of his friends did not. “I said to myself then that if I had the chance, I would dedicate part of my life to making sure their memories are honored and that their families would be taken care of,” recalled Tradewell.

Tommy and his high school sweetheart, Sharon, whom he had married before shipping out to Vietnam, have made good on that promise. “My father-in-law was in the VFW and was in the honor guard, so Sharon and I both grew up with the VFW, going to spaghetti dinner fundraisers and realizing from an early age the importance of the group,” Tradewell explained.  

While raising their two sons, both Tommy and Sharon volunteered to help the VFW. Tommy’s first “job” was as dishwasher but he quickly rose through the ranks, eventually being asked to be a part of the honor guard. “That was a dream come true,” he said proudly. The VFW assignments that followed grew in importance. “I started out as Junior Vice Commander of my Post,” Tradewell recalled, “and went on through the ranks of each level of the VFW—District, State and National.” Tradewell served as National Commander-in-Chief of the VFW from 2009 – 2010.

“Every VFW member has served in a combat zone,” explained Tradewell, describing why the VFW is unique among veterans’ service organizations. “There is a different bond and feeling of brotherhood and a special concern for the troops still serving and their families.”

“When we send our youngest, brightest and our healthiest to war, if they do incur an injury or have other service-related problems, the VFW makes sure that they and their families are protected,” Tradewell continued.

“I have the VFW in my heart. It’s difficult to communicate that in a piece of paper. That’s why I want to meet with our supporters. I want to hear their stories and to share mine with them.”

Tommy Tradewell currently serves the VFW by working with supporters who want to leave a lasting legacy for veterans through estate gifts in their will, trust or by beneficiary designation. Contact Tommy at plannedgiving@vfw.org to learn more.

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