Post 3442

721 Mount Rushmore Rd
Custer, SD 57730
605-673-4262
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The small town of Custer is nestled in the valley of the Black Hills. Its main street, which is Mount Rushmore Road, looks like something that would appear on a postcard. There is an array of restaurants for nearly every palette, shops for the outdoorsman, bakeries, souvenir shops and a trading post.

In the middle of it all sits VFW Post 3442, which you cannot miss with “Old Glory” painted on the front of the building. No matter what time of day one drives by, it seems the Post is always the place to be in this community of some 1,600 people. Tourists lodging at nearby vintage motels such as the Chalet Motel can be seen walking to the Post in the evenings.

 If you travel east out of town, you can drive into Custer State Park. The drive north out of town takes you by the Crazy Horse Memorial and through Hill City and on to Rapid City. You also can travel the scenic Iron Mountain Road, which is bookended by Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Wooden bridges and one-lane tunnels showcase the beauty of Rushmore. Or enjoy the drive to Keystone and on to historic Deadwood, where you will want to stop and check out VFW Post 5969

Members of the Custer VFW care for their community in many ways, but especially when it comes to the youth. According to Post Junior Vice Commander Corey Virtue, Boy Scouts sometimes work dinners at the Post’s dining hall in the basement and keep the donations.

“When a group of students were raising funds to head to the nation’s capital, the Post gave $500 to each one to help with the cost of the trip,” said Virtue, who served in 2007 and 2013 in Iraq with the 235th Military Police.

Post Commander Rick Hamm added that when high school cheerleaders were traveling to Pearl Harbor for a competition, the Post chipped in to help them.

Virtue, who volunteers at the high school to help students build resumes, said there is a strong bond between the community youth and the Post.

“When students collected items and assembled care packages for troops, we paid the postage to deliver those packages,” Virtue said.

Most recently, the Department of South Dakota’s Voice of Democracy winner this year was sponsored by Post 3442. Lexi Brandt from Custer High School represented South Dakota in Washington D.C., in March during VFW’s annual Parade of Winners.

‘We Can Move Mountains’

Navy veteran Sheri Deatherage, standing last October outside VFW Post 3442 in Custer, S.D.,
talks about what she likes best about being a member. For the physics and science teacher, the
Post serves as a way of bringing people together.

Post Quartermaster D.D. Couch said Post 3442 is nothing but welcoming, which is why veterans and their families choose to be a part of it.

“I have been a member nearly 40 years,” said Couch, who also is a past Department of South Dakota commander. “We had 126 members 40 years ago. This year, our membership stands at 441 so far. Post 3442 has been a pillar in Custer for many years. When a member is not in this for him or herself, we can move mountains.”

A visit to the Post is a bit like the 1980s sitcom “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. If the regulars do not know your name, Post leaders say they soon will.

Virtue said there have been VFW members from other states passing through town and enjoy Post 3442 so much that they have transferred their VFW memberships to the Custer Post.

“Our Post is nothing more than extended family,” Post member Eric Lewis said, adding jokingly, “Maybe a little more like Cousin Eddie [from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”].”

Sheri Deatherage, a physics and science teacher at Custer High School and a Navy veteran, agrees. She is one of the newer members to Post 3442.

“I joined because this Post is very, very active in our community, and I love that we are able to be together as different branches of the military and get to interact with each other,” said Deatherage, who earned her VFW eligibility in 1999 in Kosovo. “We are so involved in the community, and it just brings a lot of people together.”

Virtue, whose great-uncle was a charter member of the Post, and whose father was a life member before dying from an Agent Orange-related illness, said the town of Custer may be small, but the Post keeps growing.

“The success of this Post is because of the community involvement we see,” Virtue said. “But the camaraderie we experience here is what I most love.”

On March 29, VFW Post 3442 celebrated 79 years in Custer.

South Dakota Fun Facts

Photo by Janie Dyhouse / VFW
  • South Dakota’s deposits of Sioux quartzite are red and pink in color, and some are estimated to be 2 billion years old. At Palisades State Park in the southeast portion of the state, the 50-foot quartzite cliffs and spires looming over Split Rock Creek contain catlinite, a rare, soft mineral used by Native Americans for making calumets (peace pipes). The sheer spires make the Palisades one of the best climbing spots in the state.
  • Although it is situated in the middle of the country, South Dakota has more miles of shore than Florida. This is due in large part to Lake Oahe, a 231-mile-long reservoir along the Missouri River but also to the many small lakes and tributaries of the Missouri.
  • Just 20 miles north of Belle Fourche, S.D., is considered the geographic center of the entire United States, when considering Alaska and Hawaii.
  • Clark, S.D., is home to a yearly mashed potato wrestling competition during the town’s annual Potato Days.
  • Spearfish, S.D., holds the world record for having the greatest change in temperature in the shortest amount of time. On Jan. 22, 1943, the temperature went from minus 4 to 45 within 2 minutes — that’s a 49-degree change in just 120 seconds.

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