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.