The Military Order of the Cootie is the Honor Degree
of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
The prerequisite for being a member of the Military
Order of the Cootie (MOC) is to be a member in good
standing of the VFW, having served as a Post
officer, either elected or appointed, or holding a
position contributing to the VFW.
Only active members of a VFW Post are invited to
join a Pup Tent which is under the control of a Seam
The objective of the organization is to “HAVE FUN”
and support the VFW. Other functions include visits
to hospitalized veterans with the motto “Keep them
smiling in beds of white”, as well as contributing
time and effort to the VFW in support of Post
activities and recruiting new members.
The Military Order of the Cootie supports the VFW
National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, MI
through visits, contributions and special projects.
The Military Order of the Cootie (MOC) can trace its
ancestry to the Imperial Order of the Dragon - a
similar fun-loving auxiliary that was affiliated
with the United Spanish American War Veterans (USAWV).
After World War I, two veterans who were members of
both the USAWV and the VFW thought that the VFW
might be able to attract more members if it formed
an auxiliary modeled on the Imperial Order of the
Dragon. These men, Fred Madden and F.L. Gransbury,
began recruiting members for the new auxiliary on
September 17, 1920, at the VFW National Encampment
in Washington, D.C. By the end of the encampment,
nearly 300 members had been enrolled, and Fred
Madden had become the first Seam Squirrel
(commander). Later that year, a complete slate of
officers was assembled and ratified at a special
meeting held in Cavalry Baptist Church in New York
City. Madden developed a constitution and by-laws
while Gransbury authored the ritual. (Together with
the official uniform, these were approved in 1924.)
In the years after its founding, the MOC took on
several special projects designed to bring smiles to
the faces of two special groups of people -
hospitalized veterans and residents of the VFW
National Home. Its involvement with the National
Home came first. In fact, the Cooties were the first
to back Amy Ross's plan for the Home, and, in 1924,
helped persuade the VFW to sponsor the project.
Since then, there has never been a period of any
extended length in which the Cooties have not been
involved in some project for the Home's betterment
or for the happiness of those who live there.
Shortly after the Home was established, the Cooties
began the tradition of sponsoring the Home's annual
Christmas party. They took it upon themselves to
make sure the residents had Christmas presents and a
Christmas dinner, and also that Cootie volunteers
were always on hand to help organize and run the
party. Then in 1933, the MOC received permission
from the VFW National Encampment to build an
athletic field at the National Home. Over the next
few years, the Cooties raised $15,000 for the field,
which was dedicated in 1941. No sooner had they
finished paying for the field than the Cooties took
on construction of an outdoor swimming pool. Before
this pool was dedicated in September 1950, the
Cooties had drummed up over $8,000 more than the
$40,000 needed to build it.
The next major Home project was the brainchild of
two Cooties, Collin Small and Charles Millard of
Ohio's Buckeye Pup Tent (local unit) No. 2. Their
"Operation Fire Department" called for the MOC to
give the Home a fire truck and a building to house
it, then train some of the older boys in fire
fighting techniques. A Home fire department, they
reasoned, could give a much faster response time to
Home emergencies than fire departments of the
surrounding towns. This operation was completed in
1950, during Supreme Commander Ernie Moore's term.
Subsequently, the Grand (Cootie equivalent of a VFW
state department) of Maryland undertook the
continual upgrading of the Home's real Fire
Department by raising the necessary funding through
the sale of mythical commissions in a mythical
"National Home Fire Department." These fees allow
the Grand of Maryland to make contributions towards
the National Home Fire Department's needs on an
At the 64th Scratch in 1985, the MOC approved the
establishment of a Supreme Escrow Account as an
incentive for the National Home's children to
further their education beyond high school. Upon
completion of a four-year college course, a student
receives a check for $500 for each year attended. A
$250 reward is given for each year courses are
completed in a trade school or community college.
As dear to a Cootie's heart as its National Home
projects are, auxiliary members support its program
for hospitalized veterans with equal enthusiasm.
This program got its start in the 1940's, when
auxiliary members realized that World War II would
soon fill the hospitals with sick and wounded
veterans. To help these veterans keep their spirits
up, many Cooties took it upon themselves to
entertain the patients. Soon Cooties all over the
country were visiting hospitalized veterans,
pledging to "Keep 'em Smiling in Beds of White."
Today this goal is still one of the auxiliary's
highest priorities. Many Pup Tents and their
Auxiliaries not only work with VAVS Hospital teams,
but also perform services of their own at VA
Hospitals and nursing homes. Thousands of Cootie
hours and thousands of dollars are donated each year
in carrying out this program.
Although MOC and Auxiliary members enjoy all
Cootie activities - from supporting the National
Home to visiting hospitalized veterans to helping
out the VFW - members also engage in many activities
that are designed solely for their entertainment.
These include the method by which they govern their
meetings and various procedures followed within
them. To describe these methods and some of the
other ways Cooties have fun would violate their
bylaws, but it is possible to provide a glimpse of
how Cooties sometimes have fun in public.
Picture Main Street in a Midwestern city of about
25,000 residents on a sunny Saturday morning in
June. The sidewalks are crowded with shoppers, and
traffic on the two-lane thoroughfare is almost
bumper to bumper. Three men in Cootie uniforms, the
lights on their vests winking, are sauntering down
the sidewalk in front of the city's largest
Suddenly, one of the men glances heavenward and
mumbles, "Oh, my God." The other two look upward. As
if they are watching the descent of a falling leaf,
all three slowly lower their heads until they are
staring at the ground. Taking small manuals from
their hip pockets, the three sit down in a circle on
the sidewalk, legs crossed and feet tucked under.
Opening the manuals, they begin reading the service
for a dead Cootie (most of it ad libbed as they go
Gradually a crowd gathers around the men, some of it
overflowing into the street. As the crowd grows and
traffic comes almost to a standstill, two policemen
approach to determine the cause of the blockage.
One of the officers glances at the seated trio, then
informs them, "You've got three minutes to get him
planted, then move on." As a knowledgeable member of
the VFW, the officer has quickly sized up the
situation. Shaking his head, the officer mutters,
"Crazy Cooties," and walks back to his partner.
Attracted by this offbeat brand of humor and the
Cooties' light-hearted approach to problem-solving,
at present there are about 37,000 Cooties in 1,000
Pup tents. Membership is open to members in good
standing in the VFW who have displayed their
willingness to work for the parent organization. The
Military Order of the Cootie Auxiliary (MOCA) draws
its membership from the ranks of women eighteen and
older who have been active members of the VFW Ladies
Auxiliary for at least six months and who are the
wife, widow, sister, half-sister, daughter, foster
daughter, or granddaughter of an active VFW member
in good standing. Today there are approximately
17,000 auxiliary members contained in 597 Pup Tents.
Trek to the Tomb - The “Trek to the Tomb of the
Unknowns” is an annual event scheduled for the 1st
week in November. Cooties from around the world
assemble at Arlington National Cemetery and pay
tribute by dedicating wreaths donated by all the Pup
Tents and their Ladies Auxiliaries to those that
have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Special wreaths are laid by the Supreme Commander of
the MOC , President of the MOCA and Commander of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
The uniform of the Cootie is a “Red Hat” worn
sideways with appropriate indications of status in
The accessories, when formerly dressed, are red
blazer jacket, white shirt, white trousers with red
stripes down the side and white shoes. This is the
attire worn at Tomb Trek and other dignified
Cooties “at play” can have any combination and
usually do of “RED, Red, red, plus various colors
and any combination thereof”.
Consider the official uniform of the VFW's Military
Order of the Cootie (MOC): red pants with a white
stripe running down each side; ruffled white shirt;
lace-trimmed red vest emblazoned on the back with a
gold-outlined, bug-like creature with flashing light
bulb eyes; red, overseas-style cap worn sideways so
that the tassels dangle beside the wearer's ears.
Surely whoever designed this outfit must have had in
mind the old saying that "clothes make the man."
After all, one of the principle objectives of the
Cootie auxiliary is for its members to have and
provide fun for themselves and others.