The Military Order of the Cootie

Local News

BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — You may have seen people dressed up like Willard Boyer in military parades. He’s a cootie.

They are scattered throughout the world including about 1500 in Pennsylvania.

Willard is one of about 18 in Blair County, and that’s just one of eight military organizations that he’s involved with.  

The Military Order of the Cootie is a special part of the VFW. The story of the “cootie,” which are lice, goes back to World War I.

It was fabled that the cootie would bite the head of a soldier as a bullet was coming, causing him to duck. Thus, the cootie had saved his life and kept him safe.

The Order of the Cootie was started in 1920 to comfort hospitalized veterans and support their children and families. To bring laughter, they wear their hat sideways, put on a lot of goofy pins, and sometimes wear their boxer shorts on the outside of their pants.  

“One of the supreme quartermasters come up with this idea of making shorts with no fly,” said Boyer, “and [to] put them on the outside to make people smile and cheer them up.”

Willard has the original charter for the Blair County Chapter of the Cooties. One of the most famous members was James E. Van Zandt, who was a U.S. Congressman for Pennsylvania. 

“You have have to be an outstanding member of VFW to be a cootie because we’re the honor degree of the VFW,” said Boyer.

Willard doesn’t have a special way to say goodbye, just a way to say hello. He left with a scratch to the chin.

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