Whitney Hodgin Dodge City Globe
For the first time in its 75-year history, the GI Forum’s National Conference is being held in Dodge City.
The three-day event begins Sunday, July 23 and runs through Wednesday, July 26 next summer at the Boot Hill Conference Center.
Organizers are encouraging vendors to register to attend the event as it will take place just before Dodge City Days and is expected to attract more than 200 veterans and their families with great food, networking opportunities and trade.
Dodge City is home to the first GI Forum in the state of Kansas at 711 Military Ave.
State Commander Jose Olivas of Ulysses said the organization votes each year on where to hold the forum and that Dodge City won an overwhelming majority of the vote, ahead of San Antonio and El Paso, the other cities vying for the honor .
The conference has previously been held in larger Kansas cities like Overland Park, but members chose a smaller city in a rural area that was thriving and easy to get to, he said. Also, we thought people would enjoy the Western theme and maybe they’d like to go where they’ve never been before, like a place with ‘Miss Kitty’ and ‘Gunsmoke,'” Olivas said. “We hope to touch everyone with different things and ideas, and to recognize those who have served our country and connect them with images of them and their families, past and present. It’s a nice activity place for the youth and just a good time for everyone.”
He said the Forum has always been a good host who was more than willing to provide transportation from the airport to the event.
“We want to accommodate them and make them feel like part of Dodge,” said Olivas. “We want people to wear their cowboy hats and boots if they have them, and if they don’t have them, they can buy them here. We want everyone to have fun, do business, and help our local community in Southwest Kansas.”
The American GI Forum is a national organization for family veterans composed primarily of Mexican Americans. Her motto is: “Education is our freedom and freedom should be everyone’s business.”
It has offices in Kansas, Texas, Colorado, California, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and in Washington, DC and focuses on veteran issues, education and civil rights.
The forum works closely with organizations such as American Legions and VFW agencies, Olivas said.
According to local author Tim Wenzl’s book, A Place in Time, the GI Forum was founded on March 26, 1948 in Corpus Christi, Texas by Dr. Hector P. Garcia to address the concerns of Mexican-American veterans who have become separated from other veterans’ groups.
Originally formed to solicit services for World War II veterans of Mexican descent who were being denied medical services by the United State Department of Veterans Affairs, the forum soon addressed non-veteran issues such as voting rights, jury selection, educational desegregation, and advocacy for civil rights of all Mexican Americans. One of the main activities of the local GI forum is raising money for college scholarships.
For more information, contact Jose Olivas at 620-575-6139. Contact Kansas GI Forum Chair Irene Velasquez at 620-353-9101 or email [email protected]
Also visit www.agif.com.
To contact the author, email [email protected]