VFW post in Derby may get a new name

Members of the Derby VFW are considering a proposal to rename their post after a decorated war veteran who died this month.

If the plan is adopted, the post will bear the name of Philip Graue, who served as a Marine in Vietnam and then joined the U.S. Army to fight in Iraq.

Graue, 62, died Oct. 6 after a long battle with cancer. Many believe his cancer stemmed from his exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Steve McDonald, who is leading the drive to rename the post, said Graue was a fixture in the Derby VFW.

"If anybody needed anything done post-wide, they'd always ask Philip," he said. "I've not yet met one person who met him and did not like him. He was just that kind of person.

"He also was a highly decorated Marine."

McDonald said the Derby VFW post was named after Alexander Garret in 1955. He said Garret, who wasn't a veteran, donated the building to the VFW on the condition that it carry his name for the next 50 years.

Garret died long ago, McDonald said, and the 50-year requirement has expired.

"I thought it was about time we stepped up and got this thing named after a veteran," he said.

In order to change the name, McDonald said, he is mailing post cards to all 550 Derby VFW members to let them know of the plan. He said he also has to get the approval of the state VFW commander.

If all goes well, he said, members will vote at their Dec. 13 monthly meeting on whether to approve the name change.

Matt Kerr, Graue's stepson, said the family is grateful for the honor.

"It's kind of overwhelming," he said. "We're very proud of him and his service."

Kerr, who teaches history at Maize South High School, said Graue twice talked to his classes to share his experiences in Vietnam.

He said Graue was a lifelong Marine and was torn about joining the Army.

"If you know Marines, it's Marines or nothing," he said. "But he wanted to go to Iraq to fight in the Gulf War, so he had to enlist in the Army."

Kerr said Graue was told of the plans to rename the post before he died.

"He was really kind of overwhelmed by that," he said.