La Societe des Quarante Hommes at Huit Chevaux, an independent fraternal organization of veterans, popularly known as the FORTY & EIGHT, was organized in 1920 by American Legionnaires as a fun and honor society.
Now composed of veterans of both World Wars and the Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts, it draws its origin from World War I when young Americans were sent to France to fight a war to end all wars. The narrow gauge railroads of France had boxcars (Voitures) that carried little more than half the capacity of American boxcars and these voitures were used to transport the men and horses to and from the fighting fronts. On the side of these little boxcars was stenciled the capacity of each, holding either forty men or eight horses, and these voitures became the trademark of our organization. If one could laugh at the train ride from the coast of France to the trenches crowded in these little boxcars only recently vacated by eight horses, one could surely adapt to the changes in his life when he returned home. Membership in the Forty & Eight is by invitation only for recognition of service to the American Legion and/or its programs.
The Forty & Eight is committed to charitable and patriotic aims. Our purpose is to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, to promote the well being of veterans and their widows and orphans, and to actively participate in selected charitable endeavors, which include programs that promote child welfare and nurse's training.
The titles and symbols of the Forty & Eight reflect its First World War origins. Americans were transported to the battle front on French trains within boxcars stenciled with a “40/8”, denoting its capacity to hold either forty men or eight horses. This uncomfortable mode of transportation was familiar to all who fought in the trenches; a common small misery among American soldiers who thereafter found “40/8” a lighthearted symbol of the deeper service, sacrifice and unspoken horrors of war that bind all who have borne the battle.
The Forty & Eight was founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from France. Originally an arm of The American Legion, the Forty & Eight became an independent and separately incorporated veteran's organization in 1960. Membership is by invitation of honorably discharged veterans and honorably serving members of the United States Armed Forces.
"For God and country we associate ourselves together for the following purposes: To create a charitable and non-profit veterans organization; to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to assist and promote the welfare and well being of those who have served or are now serving in the Armed Forces of the United States and their widows, widowers and orphans; to participate in all memorial services for and to be present at the funerals of departed comrades; to take part in and encourage others to participate in the proper observance of all days honoring veterans; to preserve the memories of our Service in the Armed Forces of our Country; to actively participate within our membership in projects relating to (a) the welfare of the children of America; (b) the health of our Nation by fostering a nurses training program; and (c) selected charitable endeavors."
The Voyageurs Militaire (Military Travelers) founded a Child Welfare Program in 1923 to ease the pain and suffering of those children whose fathers never returned or who were unable to care for their needs after the "Big War." Today, this program has grown to include all children with emergent needs, and our efforts amount to over eight millions of dollars annually.
The Youth Sports Program was established in 1994. Through this program. the 40/8 provides financial assistance in the form of grants to individual athletes or teams who lack the funds required to attend and participate in amateur sports programs. This program encompasses all amateur sports programs for all youths from 7 to 20 years of age.
In 1955, the Voyageurs Militaire, recognizing the shortage of Registered Nurses, adopted a program to provide financial assistance, in the form of scholarships, to those individuals who enrolled for this training. With 2,131 students receiving over $1,100,000 in scholarships this past year, the FORTY & EIGHT has granted in excess of $20,000,000 and graduated over 23,000 Registered Nurses since the inception of this program.
As one of their ongoing programs, the Voyageurs Militaire offer continuing support of the publication, "The Carville Star," which disseminates the information regarding the research into Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) taking place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There they have been successful in isolating, controlling and soon, through their research, the development of a vaccine to prevent Hansen's Disease. "The Star" is published at the former United States Public Health Service Hospital located in Carville, Louisiana. This patient-published publication carries the research works of not only this center, but those of the rest of the world, and is translated into and forwarded to 128 countries in addition to a circulation of more than 60,000 in the United States. The FORTY & EIGHT provides and maintains all the equipment necessary for the publication and distribution of this magazine, from the modern four color offset presses to the latest computer typesetting and addressing systems. We are justly proud of our ability to provide over ninety percent of the funding for this project.
By virtue of being veterans who have served their country in its time of greatest need, the fun-loving, hard-working Voyageurs Militaire maintain a strong commitment to the American way of life. Americanism projects, respect for the Flag, Constitution, Law and Order and the proven willingness to defend these principles is evident in the day-to-day activities of members of our society.
Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS)
The Forty & Eight, as are most Veterans Organizations, is an active member and participant in the VAVS program. As part of this program, Voyageurs (called Deputy Representatives) visit the Veteran Administration Medical Centers on a regular basis, where they give comfort and assistance to, or just visit with, the hospitalized veterans. The Forty & Eight has adopted an additional program for these veterans called "Keep Those Wheelchairs Rolling." Under this program, the VAVS Representative writes a brief letter outlining a "need" of the patients. These "needs" may cover a project, equipment, or comfort and convenience items needed by the hospitalized veterans. The entries are then judged on the need and benefit to the patients, and those selected receive the item(s) requested, courtesy of the National Box Car Association.
National Box Car Association
The National Box Car Association (NBCA) is an independent
association within the Forty & Eight which raises funds by selling
Crew or Associate Membership Cards. All funds raised by the
Association are used within the year they are obtained.
The National Box Car Association supports several special projects at Promenade Nationale (National Convention). Each year, a party for special children is planned at the host city. These special children and their escorts are treated to lunch, train rides and entertainment provided by HOBO Clowns and bands. The entire cost of this party is paid by the NBCA from the funds collected in their annual membership drive. Another project at Promenade Nationale, is a monetary donation made to the local VAVS Hospital or Clinic. This contribution usually goes to the Patient Services area. The NBCA also contributes large amounts to the various programs of Voiture Nationale (National Headquarters), such as the Boland Nurses Training Trust Fund and the Charles Ardery Child Welfare Trust Fund. Monies are also given to the other programs which may require assistance, such as the Membership Committee, Forty & Eighter Magazine, Law Officer of the Year Program and many others.
POW /MIA Program
The purpose of the National POW/MIA Program is to raise funds in Honor of the Servicemen & Women who were Prisoners of War, or are considered Missing in Action while serving in the defense of the United States of America, or its allies during times of armed conflict. The funds are raised to facilitate the formation and continuance of a Scholarship Trust Fund for the direct descendants of verifiable POW/MIA Servicemen and Women. Scholarships are limited to the Veteran, the Spouse of the veteran, children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren of the Veteran.
National Disaster Relief Program
The National Disaster Relief program is the newest program of La Societe. The purpose of this committee is to assist during any, and all, natural disasters by sending aid to the disaster areas. This aid may take many forms, i.e., food, clothing, direct assistance, or dispensing information on where to go for additional assistance to the individuals in the disaster area.
George B. Boland Nurses Training Scholarship Trust Fund
The Boland Nurses Scholarship Trust was founded to provide additional scholarship support to those Voitures Locale who have exhausted their scholarship funds but who still have qualified individuals applying for scholarships. The Trust is administered by Voiture Nationale, and all determinations regarding the awarding of scholarship grants are made by the Boland Trust Committee consisting of three (3) members of La Societe. Only those Voitures Locale who have an official Nurses Training Program in place may apply to the Boland Trust for further assistance, as the Trust Fund is intended as a supplement to, and not a replacement for, a local nurses training program.
Charles W. Ardery Memorial Child Welfare Trust Fund
The primary function of the Charles W. Ardery Trust Fund is to provide reimbursements of funds expended by a Voiture Locale or a Grande Voiture in meeting the emergent needs of children 17 years of age or younger. Emergent is defined as: "A situation which has developed of a serious nature demanding prompt attention." This situation may arise out of natural disasters. i.e., floods, tornadoes, hurricane, fire, etc. Emergent cases are given prime consideration and are undertaken by the Local Voiture where established agencies, (Red Cross, churches, welfare, etc.), are unable to move rapidly or cannot act at all. However, this aid is not intended to replace or supplement that assistance which may be available through established agencies.