New VFW Post 8874 Cmdr. Ed McDaris, left, and outgoing commander, now Senior Vice Cmdr. Roger Anaya. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Twenty-two year U.S. Air Force veteran Ed McDaris is the new commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8874 in Los Alamos. McDaris took over June 1 from Roger Anaya, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served a commander for nine years and is now senior vice commander.
McDaris is from a small Oklahoma town called Inola where he graduated with 52 in his class. He said almost everyone in his class had fathers or grandfathers that had graduated from the school so it was a very close-knit society.
“All branches of the military came in and administered the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests at my high school. I was always an average student. My first question in each class was how many classes could I skip and still pass. I figured I could take every Friday except one off every semester and still pass, so I went fishing, hunting, gallivanting every Friday except one, just to get through,” he said. “So I took the ASVAB test and I don’t know why, but every military service wanted me. I thought this was kind of cool.”
Before graduating from high school McDaris joined the Oklahoma National Guard, which is a branch of the Air Force, on a delayed enlistment deal, and after a couple of years he decided he wanted more in life and went active duty in 1978. He was working as a Ford garage mechanic at the time and visited an Air Force Recruiting Office on his lunch break.
“I signed up that day and left two days later for basic training. I retired in September 1997 after 22 years,” McDaris said.
He started out as a security policeman guarding the assets resources first in San Antonio, Texas. He recalls being at a base in Omaha, Nebraska doing the same thing in the middle of winter when he heard over the radio, “Bring the dogs in”.
“That was the guard dogs they were talking about . I asked over the radio, ‘What about us,’ and they answered, ‘No, you’re staying’. I went the very next day and told them I was due to re-enlist in the next six months and that I didn’t want to be in that job anymore. I said, ‘If those dogs get to go inside where it’s warm and I still had to walk around this B-52. No, no!’” McDaris explained.
He went into the electronics field – specifically crypto maintenance. He worked on electronic communications gear that encrypts message and maintaining the systems that allow aircraft to land when using instruments when they couldn’t see due to weather.
McDaris served overseas in at Incirlek, Turkey during the First Gulf War in 1991-1992 where the Air Force was helping to feed the Kurds and came under attack a couple of times.
“After that they told me I couldn’t be in electronics anymore and asked him what he wanted to do.
“I really wanted to go to Colorado Springs. So I picked a job I could get there which was command post. I was the very first enlisted command post crew commander for Air Force Space Command. That was kind of cool. I worked for four-star General Chuck Horner for a while and got to brief him. Those were interesting times,” McDaris said.
Horner was a former command pilot who flew more than 100 combat missions during the Vietnam War.
McDaris retired from the Air Force in 1997 meaning he has now been retired from the military longer than he served, which he said is the “weirdest feeling ever”. He took a trip to Alaska with this kid and ended up taking a job back at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
“I literally within a 60-day period left the Air Force in my nice little green suit and came back with a tie on – two doors down from where I was sitting when I retired,” he said. He spent 1997 to 2008 working for Lockheed Martin or one of their subsidiaries doing pretty much the same job he did in the Air Force but by then he had a master’s degree in human resources so he was utilized there.
Other jobs he held included making infra-red detectors for Hellfire air to surface missiles with Raytheon in Santa Barbara, Calif., and working for a small Alaskan Native-owned company where he worked both in Alaska and all over the United States.
“Then I got a call one day saying this job here is for you – Assistant Human Resource Manager for Los Alamos County. One of my friends saw it advertised and I thought that might be fun. So I applied for it and took the job. I had visited here two or three times and loved the place. I thought, ‘This is my kind of town,” McDaris said.
He went on to take a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2018 and currently works for legacy waste cleanup contractor N3B.
McDaris has been a member of the VFW since 2008. When he came to Los Alamos he joined both American Legion Post 90 and VFW Post 8874. At one point he was commander of the American Legion Post and president of the American Legion Riders’ Association.
Anaya, who is now Senior Vice Commander was recently selected to participate in a VFW national committee on rules and regulations having been nominated by the state commander. The national convention will be held in Kansas City.
“It’s an honor. I’ve never been to a national convention and it’s customary for the president of the United States to attend,” Anaya said.
When Anaya joined the local VFW in 2007 he became a junior vice commander within a year, a senior vice commander a couple of years later and then commander in 2012. .
“Like all the non-profit organizations – it’s hard, it’s not easy. We’re here for a purpose – to help veterans whenever we can and then the community. It’s hard to maintain active members – you can have 200 people but only a handful of active volunteers. Hopefully you have a good core and you keep moving it forward and we do. I’m very happy that Ed is taking over,” Anaya said.
Anaya said the Post is very committed to bringing in new members and noted that there have been some new members lately. He said they are mainly veterans of the Gulf War and Afghanistan, including people who have transferred to Los Alamos from Tennessee and Hanford, Wash. Anaya and McDaris said to join the post, a veteran needs to have a DD-214 and eligibility requirements may be viewed at http://vfworg-cdn.azureedge.net/-/media/VFWSite/Files/Join/EligibilityRequirements.pdf?la=en&v=1&d=20160915T174537Z. For more information, stop by VFW Post 8874 at 193 Deacon Street.