Captain Derek Funkhouser is continuing a tradition started by his grandfather Verlin Funkhouser and maintained by his father Rob Funkhouser.
The younger man recently went through the formal installation into the 40 & 8 during a meeting at the Paris American Legion Post. As part of the program, he received his official chapeau designating his membership in Voiture 594 serving Edgar, Clark and Cumberland counties.
“I know of some father and son members, but this is the first three-generation family membership that I’m aware of,” said Verlin Funkhouser.
The 40 & 8 is an honor society for veterans of American military service and membership is by invitation only. Verlin Funkhouser said the invitation is offered in recognition of service to the American Legion or its programs. He noted at one time membership in the American Legion was a prerequisite but now only military service, not Legion membership, is required.
Approaching 100 years of service, the 40 & 8 was founded in 1920 by American Legion members who served during World War I. The name comes from the experience soldiers had in France of being transported to the front line by narrow gauge railroad. The boxcars, called voitures, were labeled to indicate the cargo capacity as quarante hommes et huit chevaux, which translates as 40 men or eight horses. A French theme pervades all aspects of the organization with national officers known as Grand Chef de Gare, Chef de Train, Cheminot Nationale with meetings known as promenade and the national convention as promenade nationale.
Originally conceived as a fun and honor society for WW I veterans in the American Legion, the 40 & 8 expanded to accept members who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the ongoing War on Terror. Members still have fun with their activities but early on they recognized social needs that resulted from the war. The Voyageurs Militaire (military travelers) created a child welfare program in 1923 to help the orphans of men who died during WW I. The child welfare program now budgets more than $8 million annually and includes all children with emergent needs.
Recognizing a national shortage of registered nurses, the 40 & 8 created a nursing scholarship in 1955 that today has granted more than $20 million and graduated more than 23,000 registered nurses.
Other programs include supporting youth sporting activities; financial assistance for “The Carville Star,” which provides information about Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) and the advances in progress to create a vaccine; promoting Americanism; volunteering at veterans hospitals; national disaster relief; administering a child welfare trust fund; and raising funds to honor men and women held as prisoners of war or considered missing in action.
Verlin Funkhouser served in the U.S. Navy from 1962 to 1966. He said upon returning home he got a job where there were many employees who were also Legion members.
“They hooked onto me right away,” he said. “There was no doubt I was going to join the Legion. A year later I was asked to join the 40 & 8”
After 37 years, Verlin Funkhouser remains active with both the Paris Legion and the 40 & 8, where he has served many years as a national officer.
Rob Funkhouser followed his father into the 40 & 8 after serving with the U.S. Air Force from 1985 to 1989.
“Dad was a member, and I support what they do,” said Rob Funkhouser.
Grandson Derek Funkhouser was still on active duty when he joined the Paris Legion. He entered the 40 & 8 about a year later but his formal induction had to wait until he was back in this area.
The youngest Funkhouser has since transferred to the National Guard and is no longer on full-time duty with the Army.
“I wanted to continue the tradition,” Derek Funkhouser said. “I grew up with all of the events Grandpa was in, and I played Legion Ball. It (joining the Legion and 40 & 8) was a way to give back.”