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'Forty and Eight' raising profile

A long-overlooked veterans organization and its auxiliary are doubling down to raise awareness of their community-oriented endeavors.

The organization goes by "Forty and Eight" for short. That stands for La SociÈtÈ des Quarantes Hommes et Huit Chevaux, French for "The Society of 40 Men and Eight Horses." It refers to the 1949 Merci Train  the 49 World War I-era boxcars that France gave to the United States in appreciation for the Friendship Food Train that Americans had sent to war-torn France and Italy in 1947. 

Each railroad boxcar could hold either 40 men or eight horses, hence the name, according to Charles Baker, a Voyager in Lawton Voiture (Boxcar) 616, the local chapter of Forty and Eight.

Opening ranks

Though it began as part of the American Legion and membership was by invitation only, Baker said Forty and Eight has progressed into the 21st century by opening its ranks to any honorably discharged veteran and any honorably serving member of the U.S. armed forces who wants to join. Membership in American Legion is not a requirement. 

To sign up, call Baker at (580) 483-8444.

Membership in its auxiliary, Les Femmes, is open to any female family member of veterans, whether it be a wife, a sister or a granddaughter. They too are community-oriented and actively seeking new members.

Support for VA center

Barbara Hughes is both Presidente of the Command 616 and La Grande Presidente for the state of Oklahoma. She recently spearheaded the auxiliary's second effort to collect clothing, toiletries, reading material and other items to give to residents of the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center. The auxiliary has also helped the Lawton Food Bank on three occasions.

Forty and Eight is an independent honor society of American veterans, according to its social media coordinator, Chip Bates. It is committed to charitable and patriotic aims. The purpose of Forty and Eight is to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, to promote the well-being of veterans, their widows, widowers and orphans, and to actively participate in selected charitable endeavors. Among others, these include programs that promote child welfare and nurses' training.

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