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Our History

As Vigilant Torch commemorates its 15th anniversary, it is an opportune time to reminisce about the journey that led to its inception. In 1999, Steve Houde bid farewell to active duty, embarking on a new chapter of service within another government agency, all while maintaining strong ties with the select segment of the Special Operations community. During gatherings with fellow former members, Steve noticed a palpable desire among retirees to stay connected and informed about events and colleagues. This realization planted the seed for what would eventually become Vigilant Torch.

A couple of years later, Steve returned to the special operations community as a contractor and noticed that those serving were interested in supporting or remaining a part of what was a key part of their lives. In late 2003 or early 2004, while being protective of sensitive information, Steve initiated a quarterly newsletter aiming to foster camaraderie and facilitate communication among former members. Leveraging social and alert rosters, he contacted fellow retirees, offering voluntary newsletter subscriptions. The newsletters were typed out and produced by Steve at home, included images, and were emailed or mailed to those interested. Those receiving the newsletter grew to around 100-125 people, many of whom would later form the founding cohort of Vigilant Torch.

Around 2004, while preparing a history brief, Steve crossed paths with Steve Lahr, who was serving in an active-duty leadership position at the time. Their discussions about special operations history, the newsletter, and ways to support those in need within our veteran community sparked the idea of establishing a formal organization.

After both Steves found themselves working in the same spaces, they began discussing forming a FUM organization. Steve Lahr had knowledge of a couple of similar organizations and how they were structured, and they agreed their organization needed to be developed in the same way.  While sitting in a parking lot, they strategized on the structure, mission, and approach of this potential organization. They formulated what they saw as the charter and mission, as well as a plan of attack on how they would sell it to the command and keep it generic enough to be legally chartered while also remaining inclusive.

Their collaborative efforts led to the creation of a strategic plan. Steve Houde spearheaded outreach efforts to galvanize community support and secure command endorsement – even engaging in face-to-face dialogues with people in all sectors.  Meanwhile, Steve Lahr engaged legal professionals to navigate the setup process. With the help of Sale & Quinn, PC, they crafted the submission paperwork and the organization's original bylaws.

After initial consultations with headquarters, it was decided to establish two organizations: one active - a veterans association - and another reserved if the first organization was compromised and had to be dissolved. Additional personnel, including Troy Gilley and Chuck Africano, were recruited to serve as association officers. Troy gave instantaneous credibility with the early FUM population, and Chuck served as the secretary and financial officer while conducting the important tasks of setting up the first bank accounts and aligning with tax laws.

As they navigated challenges and milestones, including the later establishment of the Vigilant Torch Foundation, the creation of a scholarship program, and securing crucial funding, Steve Houde and Steve Lahr remained committed to their vision of creating a supportive community for our special operations veterans. Today, 15 years later, it stands as a testament to their dedication and the enduring bond of the Special Operations community.
OUR FAMILY. OUR MISSION. We provide support to active and former members of our select Special Operations community who may or may not be fully served by other military support organizations. To do this, we provide mental health support, emergency relief funds, family maintenance and resilience assistance, and scholarships.

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Vigilant Torch Association

440 Monticello Ave, Ste 1802

PMB 45797

Norfolk VA 23510-2670