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On a recent Saturday, the act was Spirit Family Reunion, a New York-based roots band. A Prius with an “I Bark for Obama” sticker pulled in beside a Dodge pickup with a Marine decal on the window. Inside, where there is now a Sierra Nevada tap next to the Budweiser, Casey hoped to sell enough booze to pay for the $2,800 cooler repair he’d put on his personal credit card that afternoon.

“It’s kind of gospel bluegrass” is how concert organizer Pete Mara, a scientist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, described the band to Fales, who was sitting at the bar wearing a Desert Storm cap.

“I might just stick around for that,” Fales said.

Regular members are always admitted without paying a cover charge, and many - but not all - have professed to enjoy the shows, which have included rockabilly, mountain music and one rap-bluegrass act from Brooklyn.

With more visitors have come more requests to use the place. The local Takoma Foundation held a fundraiser; a group of neighbors threw a Halloween party; a rock band from Blair High School put on a show, leaving it to their parents to run up the bar tabs the club needs to make such events profitable. The post has even recruited a few new members from veterans who have come for the events.

Last year, Bill Samuel started coming once a month with a dozen or so neighborhood friends (a military doctor and VFW member among them) as part of what Samuel describes as an all-male book club that doesn’t bother with books.

“We talk about work, family, sports and drink very inexpensive beer,” said Samuel, government affairs director for the AFL-CIO. “The place is unhurried and friendly. It’s kind of what people moved to Takoma Park for in the first place.”

Cole Turner, who has been a regular at Post 350 for more than 20 years, said, “I love seeing these people. I love the ka-ching of the cash register.”

The busy nights remind him of better days, Turner said, when the bar would open at 10 a.m. and bustle till closing. The post ran regular shuttle vans to Walter Reed and the Old Soldiers Home off North Capitol Street NE.

But during a recent Thursday happy hour, Cole sat in a nearly empty hall with two other patrons and did what regulars do: Tell stories they have told before.

Turner, an amateur barber, recalled the botched trim he gave one of his pals in the yard out back. “I’d had a couple of highballs,” he admitted. “Finally, I just took the razor and ran it up the back of his head. Soon he was bald.”

“And not happy,” Casey said over the laughter.

“It was cold that day, yeah,” said Turner.

The VFW does a lot for veterans: negotiates for their benefits with Veterans Affairs, provides emergency assistance and scholarships, lobbies on Capitol Hill. Posts collect medical gear and money to give to veterans and charities. A few times a year, members dispose of old American flags gathered from around their communities, burning them with the proper ceremony.

But maybe no service is more valuable than the comfortable fellowship they provide on VFW bar stools. And that’s what some members worry will be diluted if too many outsiders come in.

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