In 1916, the Knights of Columbus began its social service to soldiers. During World War I, General John Pershing, commander of the U.S. Expeditionary Forces, accepted an offer from the Knights of Columbus to set up rest and recreation centers to serve the troops. During that war, the Knights of Columbus built and operated KC Huts in training camps throughout the United States and behind the lines in Western Europe, all bearing the motto “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free.” There, soldiers of every faith found a haven during their service to their country. By the end of 1918, there were nearly 150 KC Huts located throughout the war zone.
Following the war, the Knights of Columbus continued its service by providing educational, vocational, occupational, and employment programs for veterans in its 100 evening schools. These programs were open to all races and faiths at a time when racial segregation was still common. More than 50,000 veterans enrolled, while some 25,000 took part in free home study courses.
During World War II, members assisted in the sale of war bonds. In fact, more than $92 million in bonds were bought by members alone. Civilian defense efforts, blood drives, Red Cross work and a multitude of local and national enterprises were also undertaken to help the war effort. Canadian members revived the KC Huts program that was so successful in World War I.
The support that began nearly a century ago continues well into the present. Countless care packages have been sent to troops stationed in the Middle East and elsewhere. In Places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the Knights of Columbus has sent numerous supplies and goods. In New Jersey, Council 11671 annually holds a tank pull event to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, which has raised more than $250,000 for the program.
To further assist veterans, the Knights of Columbus has established a close relationship with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and each year regularly scheduled Knights donate tens of thousands of volunteer hours to serve hospitalized veterans.