Articles

Honor the Guardians of Freedom Who Serve Our Nation

Tony Slagle, Texas State Council Historian

Ask anybody to name a service organization founded to provide morale and recreation services to our troops at home and abroad, and the common answer will be the U.S.O.

But did you know the U.S.O. is based on an idea that was put into practice by an industrious Knights of Columbus Council in Texas 25 years before the U.S.O was even founded?  

The story of the Order’s social service to the troops began during the Mexican Revolution. In 1916, the US Army stationed troops along the US/Mexico Border to secure the border from attacks by Pancho Villa, who had attacked Columbus, New Mexico in March of that same year.   60,000 of those troops were stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso under the command of General John “Black Jack” Pershing. Sensing a need to provide religious and social services to the Catholic troops stationed in its home town, Council No. 638 of El Paso under the leadership of Grand Knight Joseph I. Driscoll, established a clubhouse to provide some of amenities of home to the servicemen stationed at Fort Bliss. This would be the first of 14 such clubhouses built in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona throughout that year.

Early on these clubhouses happily welcomed all soldiers did not discriminate based on religious or ethnic background.  Affectionately known KC Huts, these clubhouses offered free recreational and social activities to all serviceman, regardless of race or religion. The slogan “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free,” hung above the doorway of every KC Hut and soon became known to every soldier stationed along the border. 

When America entered World War I, the Supreme Knight James Flaherty approached President Woodrow Wilson about setting up KC Huts in bases the across U.S and overseas. Remembering the great support the KC Huts provided soldiers under his command, General Pershing, who was then acting as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, supported this effort and soon KC Huts were established at bases throughout the US, and overseas in France, Germany, Italy, and even Siberia. Over 1,500 Knights, known as “Caseys,” volunteered at KC Huts during the war. In addition to ministering to the soldiers first hand through the Huts, the Order also raised more than $14 million for war relief.

After the war the support of our troops did not end. In an effort to aid veterans after the war, just 11 days after the armistice was signed, the Order initiated a tuition-free education program. In combination with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Order established a job bank that helped over than 300,000 veterans find employment the all over the US. Our order continues to provide aid and support to our troops and veterans. From supporting for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the "Serving Those Who Served" program (which provides assistance to veterans and military families), to the ongoing effort to increase the number of Catholic Chaplains in the military services, and the current program of wheelchair distributions for veterans, as well as the countless ways local Councils contribute, the Order continues its long tradition of actively honoring our military. 


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