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Memberships in Veteran Service Organizations on the Decline

legion

By Debbie Gregory.

There appears to be a lack of interest from younger veterans when it comes to joining legacy groups like the AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.

Membership is certainly on the decline with the deaths of WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans, and as their membership ages and declines, these organizations need young bloods to maintain the political clout they have built up, and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

According to the VFW and American Legion, only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join their organizations have done so. Don’t these veterans want to be around other veterans?

Of course they do. So why aren’t veterans from more recent conflicts signing up like their parents and grandparents did?

Perhaps the transitioning servicemembers of the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation are gravitating towards the groups that they perceive to be a better fit, such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Let’s face it, when most young people think of these groups, they don’t picture many of their peers being present.

So what should the legacy organizations do to reach out and attract younger veterans? First of all, they can communicate via email, vs. snail mail. They can make sure that they are as welcoming to female veterans as they are to male veterans.

Perhaps an updated look with a few flat screen televisions and a fresh coat of paint is in order. They can host events that will attract the younger crowd; out with the Bingo night and in with college fairs, career days, and veteran service officer Q&As.

“A lot of these kids really don’t know what the VFW is,” said one VFW Commander, Robert Webber.

Webber said VFW members reach out to newer/younger veterans every time there is a function or they are out in public.

“We explain to them that we are a family-oriented group and we try to help them,” Webber said. “We have a service officer that can help them with paperwork and medical problems.”

If veterans’ organizations like the VFW and the American Legion want to survive the next twenty years, they need to prioritize women, present a united front pulling from the entire population of veterans and tackle charitable efforts together.

Perhaps if they all joined forces as one group, they would have enough experienced officers, personnel, and funding to tackle their biggest issues. Nobody would be left out of the discussion and everyone would have the ability to help.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Why Younger Vets Are Not Joining Established VSO’s

old folks

By Debbie Gregory.

Why is there a lack of interest from younger veterans when it comes to joining legacy groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion? Could it be that these organizations are waiting for this younger generation of veterans to just walk in and join like their fathers and grandfathers before them? Or perhaps these veterans are looking for community connections that fit their needs, not the needs of older veterans.

As their membership ages and declines, these organizations need young bloods to maintain the political clout they have built up, and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

The VFW and American Legion report that only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join have done so. Don’t these veterans want to be around other veterans?

Of course they do.

But these service members are the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation, and are gravitating toward groups such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, The Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Younger veterans say the traditional organizations differ in many ways from groups that appeal to them.

To attract younger veterans, these organizations can take a few simple steps that will yield great results. First of all, they can communicate via email, vs. snail mail. They can make sure that they are as welcoming to female veterans as they are to male veterans.

Perhaps an updated look with a few flat screen televisions and a fresh coat of paint is in order. They can host events that will attract the younger crowd; out with the Bingo night and in with college fairs, career days, and veteran service officer Q&As.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Iraq/Afghanistan Vets Seek Out Their Own Connections

team rubicon

By Debbie Gregory.

Younger veterans are looking for community connections that fit their needs, not the needs of older veterans.

These young vets often feel disconnected from legacy groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. The timing couldn’t be worse, as legacy groups are desperate to bolster their numbers to make up for an aging membership that has significantly declined over the years.

Both the VFW and American Legion say Vietnam-era veterans make up the largest portion of their membership. Only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join the VFW have done so.

Today’s returning service members, the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation, are gravitating toward groups such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, The Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Younger veterans say the traditional organizations differ in many ways from groups that appeal to them, including the types of advocacy they do and their ways of communication: “snail mail” versus email.

But over the years, the VFW and American Legion have built up political clout in D.C., and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

“We have some posts that are experiencing great success in recruiting younger veterans,” says VFW Communications Manager Randi Law. For example, a VFW post in Denver has veteran yoga classes and is hosting veteran art exhibits. “Many of our posts… recognize that the younger generation doesn’t want to sit in a dingy environment swapping war stories. They want to be engaged and continue working for their community.”

“These up-and-coming veterans’ groups are extremely important, but I think that in a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons they turn to the local VFW for the support they need,” Law says. “We’ve been around a long time, so we offer a solid support system in thousands of communities across America.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.