Washington Times: Younger veterans bypass VFW, American Legion for service, fitness groups

| October 20, 2014

The Washington Times features an article today entitled Younger veterans bypass VFW, American Legion for service, fitness groups and it features a picture of my little buddy, Kate Hoit with whom I disagree more often than agree, and this is another instance. The article by Jacqueline Klimas reports the age-old stereotype of the Veterans Service organizations (VSOs) as being out-of-touch with modern veterans, that all they are is dingy little clubhouses for aged veterans reliving their glory days stooped over a beer. That younger veterans are flocking to the new veterans organizations;

The new generation of veterans instead is gravitating toward groups organized around activities such as running or volunteering, and groups that allow nonmilitary members to take part as well.

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.

Vietnam veterans will recall how the VSOs weren’t exactly welcoming them home from their war either. Now look at who is running the VFW and the American Legion – the Vietnam veterans.

The Times article talks about our friends at Team Rubicon which deploys veterans to crises around the world to lend a helping hand. They talk about the fitness club Team Red, White and Blue, and I encourage veterans to participate in those organizations if that’s your thing. But does your club have legislative directors that represent your interests in government?

A good example of what the old VSOs do for you is when the Obama Administration were going to force service-connected disabled veterans into private insurance – the American Legion and the VFW marched into the Oval Office and demanded that they back off – and they did.

The plans for your future are in debate now in Congress and in the halls of the Pentagon and there are only a few obstacles to them screwing you and the rest of veterans to the wall, and those obstacles are the VFW, the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America, not Team Rubicon or Team RWB – what gives them the strength that they have in Congress and the White House is their membership numbers and the infrastructure that the VSOs have already established for generations. I doubt your local fitness club will spend much time in front of Congressional committees defending your COLA increase, or make a big deal out of the failures of the Veterans Affairs folks.

In addition, the VSOs represent you individually in your VA claims. The Paralyzed Veterans of America got my disability claim processed without me having to leave my house.

Yeah, if you take a short-term view of your life, the fitness clubs and the other organizations look good, but there will come a time when you’ll need more than fellowship from your club. And this administration is a clear example of why we really need the old VSOs, given that they expect more from veterans while cheating us out of the things we were promised.

I’m a life member of the American Legion, the VFW and the Disabled Veterans of America and it’s like insurance for my future, and the future of all veterans even though I didn’t get much out of it when I joined initially. One day, the younger veterans will be running those VSOs like the Vietnam vets are now running them. But can you imagine how future government leaders will be able to screw you without those VSOs?

Added: A link to our friends at The Burn Pit on the subject

Category: Veterans Issues

Comments (67)

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  1. Green Thumb says:

    I make a distinction between the two. Legion, VFW, MOPH, etc: Veteran Service Organization(s).

    Team Rubicon, WWP (turds), “Sports, hunting fishing and so forth for Vets”: Veteran Service Providers.

    However, I will say this. In some states, the State Department of Military Affairs is screwing the pooch in both of the above categories as their (boards that report to the Governor) do not accurately reflect the state. For example in the GREAT NW where I live, we have no OEF/OIF Vets, women, anyone under 40 run by a NG guy who has never deployed!

    This being said, they shun VSO’s and actively encourage the VA to “hamper” them while providing no support for the younger generation in other venues.

    And tell me why some states. organizations and the VA cannot get it right?

    • Farflung Wanderer says:

      What’s wrong with the Wounded Warrior Project? I thought they help injured vets?

      • jonp says:

        A whole lot is wrong with them, Farflung. I invite you to research them yourself. I do not support them.

      • John Miska says:

        WWP is a great charity if you are a dogooder looking for a job with high pay ostensibly helping vets…They only help post 9/11 Vets of which there are only some 52,000 WIA…. Lots of money coming in so few Veterans really helped. You are a smart fellow just look at their 990 https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/media/579212/fy2013_990_-_online.pdf

        • Green Thumb says:

          WWP’s definition of wounded is deploying post 9/11. And in some cases, you do not have to deploy s a service member to be a member.

          Yes, you read that correctly.

          Call and ask them.

      • CLAW131 says:

        I have heard/read that less than 10% of donations actually make it to the wounded. The 90% goes to big wigs salaries and dog&pony show BS. I don’t support them either.

        • TFA303 says:

          To top it all off, WWP won’t let affiliates have a fundraiser at a church, but the Playboy Mansion is ok.

          • Green Thumb says:

            Word.

            They tried to sue an organization up here in the Great NW for something very similar and were pretty much “tossed” out of the state.

        • Green Thumb says:

          And good luck finding a PH recipient in their organization these days.

          Its tough. Minus the guys on the commercials, that is.

    • Elmo says:

      The WWP has filled a need for the younger generation. I am a life member of the VFW, but have never really made a connection with them. I will never go back to the American Legion after the way I was treated there. I am almost 50 and don’t fit in with the VFW and American Legion, so I can understand why a 20 year old would feel out of place. WWP has done quite a bit for me and my family. Between helping me with my VA claim, events for family caregivers, training and support groups, they have been a life saver.

  2. Martinjmpr says:

    I dunno, Jonn, I just read the article and other than the typically insipid “millennial” crap, I can’t find much to disagree with.

    I LOL at the notion of “younger” vets feeling out of place in a dingy VFW or AL hall, because that’s exactly how I feel and at 52, I’m not exactly “younger” by most definitions of the term.

    As for the “clout” that VSO’s bring, they only have that clout because of their membership size. If they don’t find a way to recruit (snicker) “Younger” vets like me they’re going to find that clout evaporating as their members die off.

    Who wants to take my bet that by 2025 the VFW and AL will have merged due to declining membership numbers?

    • JONACE says:

      Why do you feel out of place?

      • Martinjmpr says:

        Because every VFW or AL I’ve been in is basically an “old man’s drinking club” and I’m always the youngest person there by at least a decade. And at 52 I’m not that young, so imagine how a 30 year old vet feels!

        Last time I went to a meeting at the Legion hall I was literally the only person in attendance who was not retired. And this wasn’t a small post, either.

        Look, if old guys want to sit around and have a beer and talk about Vietnam, that’s fine, have at it. But such a place has no relevance, no significance to MY life.

        There are undoubtedly people out there for whom the VSO’s offer a valuable service, but I don’t seem to be one of them and I can honestly say that of all the friends I have who are vets, I only know of one who is active with a VSO (and he’s at least 6 years older than me.)

        • OEF/OIF VFW Member says:

          I joined a VFW Post because I wanted to hang around in a dark, smoky bar full of old guys telling war stories. To my disappointment, the Post didn’t even have a bar! All they do are service projects and community outreach!

          I went in looking for a bar, came out as a member of the leadership board of a 501(c)(3) non-profit!

          -OEF/OIF Combat Veteran

  3. ChipNASA says:

    2 out of 3 life member, AL and DAV. Not eligible for VFW but did have a VFW in my home state once tell me “not to worry about the specifics…” when I explained that I had never deployed And therefore was not eligible….kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Glad I didn’t listen to them.

  4. ANCCPT says:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of not supporting their mission; I think it’s a matter of feeling unwelcome. I’m in my early 30’s and I can’t think of many, if ANY less welcoming military related places than probably 90% of VFW/AL Halls. No offense to my older brethren in uniform, but I personally don’t really like to hang out in dark, smokey bars and drink at 10 AM with a bunch of seventy year olds who are going to tell me about how much harder their service was. It’s just not who this generation of Veterans are, and the generational divide is a significant factor. And while I’m sure this unwlecoming environment is unintentional, it’s also the prevalent perception of the organizations at large, even if it’s not the totality. The political advocacy component is the true core of the organization, and sadly overshadowed by this stereotype.
    While Rubicon and RWB are incredible organizations, I suspect that as the current generation of Veterans gets older, that more will join the AL/VFW, and change the demographics. Gotta slow down sometime; and as the VFW/AL membership numbers drop, and we (the current generation of veterans) get older, this will change.
    There will be a new generation to pick up the flag and move forward, like there always has been. Like the Vietnam veterans took it from the WWII veterans, and the WWII Veterans took it from their predecessors and so on, the Legion and the VFW will endure, and we’ll carry the flag forward as our predecessors did before us when our time comes. Please note that while this view may not be shared by all here, it’s an honest opinion, and absolutely no disrespect to my elder brothers in arms in the VFW and AL. You all have done a hall of a job and when our time comes, we’ll be there.

    • SJ says:

      Re: “I don’t think it’s a matter of not supporting their mission; I think it’s a matter of feeling unwelcome. I’m in my early 30’s and I can’t think of many, if ANY less welcoming military related places than probably 90% of VFW/AL Halls. No offense to my older brethren in uniform, but I personally don’t really like to hang out in dark, smokey bars and drink at 10 AM with a bunch of seventy year olds who are going to tell me about how much harder their service was.”

      I have to agree. And I’m 72. And any of my fellow geezers that say you young whipper snappers has it easy just is clueless. Ask him how may deployments he had to Nam compared to trips to the sandbox that you folks do.

      I’ve been known to indulge in adult bevs but I don’t find it pleasurable at the AL I joined (because they had an RV park). I was prepared to like it but turned off real quick.

    • Stacy0311 says:

      I would tend to agree with the ‘older vets’ not being incredibly welcoming.
      During DEMOB at For Bliss, we arranged with the leadership of the local VFW to have a BBQ at their facility. In spite of the fact that we were paying for our drinks,fod and kisking them some money for use of their facility, all of the ‘older generation’ I overheard were sitting at the bar pounding 7 & 7, bitching about all of these “kids” in their club. Combine it with all of the MAC-V SOG, Green Beret and POW banners on the wall and VFW auxxillaries bitching about “these kids” while chain smoking Virginia Slim menthols,and I can understand why younger vets are disinclined to hang out at the VFW. Memebership might be a different story. I haven’t joined the VFW, Legion or DAV because I’m still serving. But when I get tired, I’ll probably sign up. And turn into one of the curmudgeons bitching about the “kids”

    • TSO says:

      ANCCPT I hope you don’t mind, but I cited to your comments in a piece I wrote.

      http://burnpit.us/2014/10/who-will-carry-flag-response-washington-times

      • ANCCPT says:

        TSO, Anytime, sir. I can’t claim to speak for anyone but myself, but anyway I can help, I’m happy to.

    • SFC Holland says:

      I am a life time VFW member, and a member of team RWB. The VFW does many important things lie John cites, but the other part is also true, windowless smoky hobbit holes filled with aged grouches. We tried to do a family night with kids at the VFW because we all voted on it, and it turned out we were the only family in the bar trying to have dinner while too loud music and smokey drunk great grandparents growled underneath their breath. Never again. They are out of touch with the new generation and that’s it. They ask for ideas and we give them tons, new outreach programs, new VFW’s with windows and a brighter vibrant appeal that has readily available resources for transition to civilian life, and so on. It will get worse unless the leadership wises up. No one wants to be someplace where they are unwelcome, and it’s unhealthy for the family. We are pulling our affiliation with our current VFW post and moving to a nicer one that is more welcoming. Our current one is a slash and jab and not a place for fellowship at all.

    • DefendUSA says:

      I’m sorry you feel that way, ANCCPT.
      At our post, we try really hard to make everyone welcome and included. We have a Post supper and our membership meeting follows.
      We don’t have a place to call home, like the AL Post in Ct named after my great uncle. (He went down on the USS Dorchester in 1943.) We are allowed free use of a building, so there is no liquor.
      The younger vets are busy building families and running up the ladders to advancement and my take is that they are not ready to see that this is what they face in the “golden years” and therefore, they don’t come. I am the youngest veteran at 50–and I was the only female that regularly attended meetings. The rest of “my guys” are 65 and older…One is 98! We share fellowship, a prayer and try to do for our comrades.
      We are a small post, compared to the others around. The same 30 or 40 people do all the work but our membership is around 200+.

  5. PAO SSG says:

    And this is why I do both. I maintain my membership in my local VFW/Legion posts, but most of my “free” time is working with a local veteran’s group that is reaching out to families of vets and helping with reintegration, particularly for those who have been injured.

    Once for the big picture and one is for the local. No one says I can’t do both.

  6. OIF '06-'07-'08 says:

    I see these VSO’s as a double edged sword. like how many poser’s have been busted here that have received membership’s in these organizations with a questionable DD214. Yes, I am a member at large in the VFW, but I do not belong to any VFW Post. I myself abhor alcohol and have no reason to hang out at a bar, yes, I have better things to do with my life.

    How many VSO halls have any thing other than a bar to help with operating cost? Why does the elected officers do more to try and become more for their community than just providing burial details for deceased veterans.

    The reason I do not belong to a VFW post is that when I did, I tried to pass on ideas and yet was looked at like I was born on another planet.
    Other organizations like the Lion’s Club, The Rotary Club and so forth have become so involved with their communities, what has the VFW or the American Legion really done to integrate them selves with their local communities?

    • Green Thumb says:

      Several VFW posts in the Great NW are open to the public, especially at night.

      I have seen good one and terrible ones.

      If anything, it points to the need for income and management.

    • OWB says:

      My exact reasons for not joining until about 10 years ago. The post in which I am most active has no bar. They have no alcohol service at any post functions. They spend every dime on veterans in the community who need something, with a small amount spent to maintain the armaments. Members buy and maintain their own uniforms, etc for the funeral and ceremonial details.

      Yeah, every post is a little different from all the others, so keep looking.

  7. fm2176 says:

    I’ve found a couple of VFW posts that are fairly pleasurable to sit and have a few drinks in. Both are far removed from any active duty installation and have interesting and friendly regulars. Tbh, I’ve yet to join or even walk into an American Legion.

    It’s funny, but I like VFW posts for the exact reason others loath them. They’re usually quiet, with inexpensive drinks and little potential for fights or other drama.

    That said, there usually are one or two vets sitting there chain smoking and drinking throughout the day…

    • OEF/OIF VFW Member says:

      Right? What’s wrong with people? If you wanted a fitness club, you could have stayed in the military – group fitness free there! In fact, you don’t have a choice!

      Half the reason I got out was because after nearly a decade, I was sick of all the damned running (because, you know, I did so any distance runs on my deployments…).

      Bottom line: Team RWB is fine, but once that cartilidge in your knees and ankles starts to wear out, then maybe you may consider the VFW. But there again, the only Team RWB guys I’ve ever met spent their deployments inside the wire. Maybe all those runs are to make up for something?

  8. RunPatRun says:

    Some of the article is on target, but painting VSOs with such a wide brush is inaccurate.

    I’ve seen this quote in action at the local VFW:
    “Rather than drop out, Mr. Rolf recruited his friends to join, took on leadership roles and changed the organization.”

    VSOs are incredibly important. If you don’t like the local post and can’t make the change from within, I highly recommend joining as an at-large member.

  9. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    As a national guardsman during the cold war I don’t believe I qualify for any of these organizations, but I do believe they serve an important function for those of you who spent your time on active duty in foreign lands.

    VSOs will become more important for you guys as we continue to have less than 1% serving in uniform. If we learn nothing else about our government we should learn this simple rule: if your demographic is too small to change an election the government will have no issue with screwing you regularly. In order for 1% to matter you have to band together and bring the noise to DC>

    • Sparks says:

      Veritas Omnia Vincit…I agree. Regardless of various experiences folks have with the VSOs. The important issue and the NAME OF THE GAME in Washington that gets things heard is, lobbying, lobbying and then lobbying some more. For this I appreciate them and see their need and importance for vets and especially AD personnel.

  10. Richard says:

    I belong to the AL at large, I am not associated with a post. I joined about 10 years ago. I am not eligible for the VFW or DAV. I need more exercise and I dislike sitting in smokey bars. Up until this year, I traveled a lot. Now that I am home most of the time I should visit a post or two and see what they are about.

    I think the VFW/AL national mission statement is good, I’m less confident about the local organizations but that ignorance is my fault, not theirs.

    • John Miska says:

      Join our Post 157 here in Madison Virginia and you can brag about our support efforts and when In the Area have a place to visit. As an at large member you cannot brag about what your Post does do….
      Just ask any of the guys who have passed thryu Walter reed quite a few know us….or the guys who fish with Project healing Waters They know us as well…..How about any of the wounded and disabled Vets who have gotten a service dog from Mutts With a Mission….. we here are a small post but we do a lot for younger Vets. So if you want to be a member we can use your membership here to do good works. As a member of a Post your dues go to support all our local effort and more.
      … Also any younger Vets in the area of Central VA…Come join us and take over we are all for you all come and make the Post your own.

    • thebesig says:

      I’m a lifetime member (member at large) of the VFW. There are some decent VFW posts and some that leaves much for improvement. It depends on the members, and funding management.

      • Beretverde says:

        I disagree with members, funding, and management…it is simply good LEADERSHIP that makes one post better than others. Just like units in the military.

        • thebesig says:

          Hence the mention of, members. The leadership are part of the “members” category. Funding and management also ties into the equation.

          I disagree with any exclusion of those factors from the discussion, because they pretty much play a big role in any discussion of change.

          Renovating many of these posts would require money, and the will of the members… rank and file to push for it… leaders to make it happen… to bring about change.

          I mention of members would also include the discussion about attitudes.

  11. Mr Wolf says:

    I love reading these sentiments. As a STOUT supporter of TAL (life member, Legion Rider life member) I understand what the ‘full’ mission is, to include our interests in Congress. I have been to Legion halls all over the US- and they are ALL different. Some are those old ‘smokey halls’ and some are really nice meeting places- for example, the largest in the US is in the Tampa area, and it ain’t smokey at all- its fabulous.
    The VFW lost me back in the VFW-PAC days, and the local VFW is trying very hard to rein me in. They even have yoga classes at their hall. But when they started helping to lead the Pride Parade, they lost me again. Supporting veterans is one thing; supporting ‘alternative lifestyles’ is completely different.

  12. thebesig says:

    I’d recommend the “Warrior Zone” concept to help attract new veterans into the traditional VSOs.

    The one’s I’ve been to were nice, and were sectioned. Something like this applied to a VSO could have a “darkened bar room” area for the older folks, and something for the other veterans.

    The USO entertainment buildings that they have on current bases also offer some suggestions that could be incorporated.

    I’ve been to a VFW building to enjoy a meal, I had no issues with the “dark room” concept. On the other side of the coin, money issues and the will of the members cast a vote on whether this suggestion plays out or not.

    The photos in this link don’t do justice to the warrior zones I’ve been to:

    http://www.army.mil/article/58603/Warrior_Zone__Innovative_recreation_opportunities_for_Soldiers/

  13. Dave Hardin says:

    I could not agree more that currently and in the future we need to be organized to have effective representation. Until these organizations police their own memberships they will neither be organized or effective. The Buddhist approach of ‘Change comes from within’ does not seem to be yielding much. I can not help but wonder what would happen if we did a FOIA on every veteran cited in this article. Until these organizations get behind, help fund, and organize an effective means to verify a veteran they will continue to lose credibility. They will continue to rot from within. It is time for my generation and beyond to get the fuck out of the way and trust that leadership to those that have followed in our footsteps.

  14. joseph says:

    I did not join a vso until I was 42 years old. I did not get active until I was retired. I do not drink or smoke, but I do go to the local meetings. most of the involvement in the community consists of donating money to various charitable causes, both veteran orientated and children orientated. as a member I volunteer at the va twice a week. this not only helps veterans but gives the organization that I donate my hours for some type of political clout. it is rare for a younger veteran to show up at any post I have been in but I do believe that as they age they will join

  15. Martinjmpr says:

    Re: “Service to the Community”, I hear that a lot as a justification for the VSOs but has anyone ever thought to ask “the community” if the VSO’s actually do provide a “service” that “the community” wants?

    Put another way, if the VSOs in your community disappeared tomorrow, would you notice? I’m not sure I would. The only impact I can think of is that we might not have a VSO presence in the various annual parades to carry the colors, and maybe the local boy/girl scouts wouldn’t get their classes in flag etiquette.

    But other than that, I’m hard-pressed to think of any particular “service” that the VSO’s around here actually provide to our community, or at least one that isn’t also provided by other charitable organizations like churches, Elks/Lions/Eagles, Habitat for Humanity, the various food banks, etc.

    The days when the local VFW or AL hall was the social center of the community is long gone, at least in the big cities. Those of you in smaller towns can chime in about whether your local VSO’s provide a viable “community service” or not, but I just don’t see it here.

    • joseph says:

      when i lived in az the local american legion ran a food bank once a week. members paid for their own cuel to drive about 150 miles round trip to bring food up from prescott for free distribution to all people who were residents whether they were veterans or not. no bar in that post either

    • John Miska says:

      If our Post were to disappear I guarantee that there would be a dent in the local area as to community service.

  16. JacktheJarhead says:

    When I got out of the Corps in 1980 I went with my Dad to his AL post, he wanted me to join. I was told by several of the members that I was not a veteran and could not join. Pissed my father off and there were a few heated words. Most of the members, including my Dad, were WWII vets and most of the WWII vets that I have had contact with (I’m a baby boomer, so Lots) were of the same opinion, you are not a veteran unless you served in WWII. So I never joined. Funny the same legion post (which is a mile from my home) has been soliciting me to join.

    It is sad to see that my experience was not unique. There is a veterans group in the company I work for and we help out in the community, so I will stick to that. I will continue to support The Semper Fi FUnd and Wounded Warriors. But until the attitude changes, won’t join the AL.

  17. Martinjmpr says:

    Jack: I once read a semi-humorous saying that went something like this: “The purpose of a club is to keep people out.” 😀

    Sounds funny but if you think about it, how many people form clubs/groups/organizations for the purpose of associating only with people who meet certain qualifications (live in a certain area, are engaged in a certain specific hobby, drive a certain type of car or ride a certain type or brand of motorcycle, etc) and where the first thing they do is determine who is NOT eligible to be in the club? That kind of exclusivity appeals to some people.

    I know the American Legion was formed after WWI and I believe the VFW is older than that. I presume that the “F” in VFW for Veterans of FOREIGN Wars was put there to make it clear that they were not interested in veterans of the US Civil War, veterans of the Indian Wars, or veterans of other fights that were within the boundaries of the US. So there is exclusivity built right into their name and their founding.

    Perhaps if the VFW and AL had opened their membership to all veterans years ago, instead of restricting it to veterans who qualified for certain campaign decorations (a distinction that is based mostly on chance) they would not be in the dire situation they’re in now.

  18. RazorbackStrong says:

    Everybody has jackasses at their VFW. I enjoy hanging with the smoky old drunk guys. Might swing by today. Enjoy the magazine, too! My kids ask when I’m going to get those velcro loafers they sell on the back.

  19. Thunderstixx says:

    I was in during the Vietnam War but didn’t go to the war serving in Alaska instead. They weren’t sending anyone over anymore when I joined in 1974.
    I have belonged to the AL since 2002 and now am a member of a local AL post here in League City TX and ride with the Legion Riders. I just started with them.
    I have been riding with the Patriot Guard Riders for several months now and really enjoy those rides.
    It is truly an honor to serve those that deserve it whether coming home from a war zone or bringing the body back to Houston from the War Zone or even just Veteran’s burial missions.
    I had belonged to a VFW a long time ago when the district leader of the VFW said not to worry about it.
    I did worry about it and quit the VFW a month after it started. The Lodi WI chapter has long since folded.
    We all need the work that the AL and VFW do in DC. The politicians will screw us every chance they get no matter who is in the POTUS position.
    That is why I belong, to keep it going for the younger ones. I don’t drink but still wander into some of them every now and again just to feel the camaraderie that I miss so much now that I am a long time Civilian puke !!!

  20. Ex-PH2 says:

    I like the DAV. No smoky bars, no meetings to go to, just a magazine and an e-mail newsletter about current issues.

    Fine with me. I have enough other stuff to do.

    • thebesig says:

      I’m eligible to join the DAV. :mrgreen: I get correspondence from them, some of them encouraging me to join.

      • David says:

        second the DAV….

        I wonder about VFW; last time I went to one I was told “no problem, you served, you can join” when their rules explicitly state what service qualifies (mine doesn’t – Cold War.) Too, I get tired of many of the Vietnam vets who act like they should be saints because they were in Saigon for a year – when they were drafted, kicking and screaming, and in many cases tried everything they could to evade it. One thing I have to give the more recent vets… they volunteered, and get more respect therefore. When someone seems to base their entire identity on a single year 40+ years ago that they had to be forced to do… I feel more respect for the kids now who walked in with their eyes open.

  21. As others have noted – it is important not to lump all posts together. It is the members of any given post that often decide local priorities, ie – smokey bars, etc.

    I’m a Life member of the DAV and VFW, and annual member of the AL, BUT I no longer go to meetings because I can’t see worth a damn to drive at night. About to join the VVA as well, but their meetings are also at night! [grin]

  22. NR Pax says:

    I’m saving money to become a life member of AL and I’m not eligible for VFW. Personally, going to meetings and hanging out doesn’t appeal to me. I’d much rather be left alone. If I’m drinking, I’d rather it be with family and friends. And honestly, I have no desire to be the youngest member of the Legion Hall near my home.

  23. jonp says:

    The AL and VFW are like the NRA. Everyone complains about them but they are the 800lb gorilla in Congress that works to get things done. Take all 3 out of the equation and who will stand up for you?

  24. GDContractor says:

    FWIW – I never served but I did work in Iraq and Astan. Somehow the AL must have gotten my name and address from the DOD. I get invites to join the AL in my mail occasionally and I really have no idea exactly why.

  25. Guard Bum says:

    Interesting perspectives from everyone and I am glad I am not alone in feeling unwelcome at a local VFW. I retired almost 5 years ago at age 49 after 24 years of active duty and bought a farm in a very rural area and I thought I would join the small VFW post nearest my farm. When I happened to talk to a member about joining he was all full of brothers in arms bonhomie until he found out I was recently retired and then a distinct chill came over the conversation and I was left with a less than welcoming impression.

    I don’t know anyone in the post but from the membership rolls its members are almost all Korean and Viet Nam war vets and its almost like they don’t want retirees coming in and putting a damper on their stories or or there is a certain subconscious resentment over the way the modern war vets are being treated compared to their own experience.

    Regardless of the reasons, the traditional VSOs just don’t have the appeal they used to have to the modern war vet and most don’t seem to have adjusted or come to terms with that reality.

  26. Just an Old Dog says:

    I think two major things bought this about.

    1. There is a 30 year gap between our last two major wars Vietnam and the War on terror ( aka Iraq and Afghanistan).

    2. Many vets tend to not think about VSOs until they reach the age of 50 or 60.

    In order to refill the numbers VSOs are going to have to reinvent the way they do business to attract vets that are not the same as they were.

  27. FatCircles0311 says:

    Why the fuck would I as a veteran want to join a group any swinging dick could join?

    Younger vets are retarded. It’s that simple. When the government starts fucking with their shit they’ll wish they weren’t retarded. Going to be too late by then. It’s too late already because ebola carrying illegals and deadbeats already out vote veterans anyway.

    So do what you want. Shits going to get stupid either way.

    • Charles says:

      This is why the younger vets don’t want to join. Not even a chance to grasp or understand our needs, interests or why we aren’t even remotely interest. Nope, like most of the VFW, AL and even some DAV halls that I have been to, a general attitude of the “kids these day are stupid” and throw in some name calling and why join any organization where you can’t feel some fellowship. Nope, its all like when we were in and being yelled at by our Chiefs/First shirts/Gunnys/etc. We are stupid idiots who don’t know how good we got it. You know what maybe we do know how good we got it, but treating us like boots fresh of the bus from Ottumwa ain’t helpful either. Guess what you are retired or you chose to muster out of the service after the war or your enlistment, so just like the old Wille&Joe cartoon of Willie greating his LT as a bellhop; you too can take that attitude and take a long walk off a short pier with some Chicago shoes on.

  28. Otto says:

    Wow, great comments, appreciated every one! I joined the Catholic War Veterans when I was eligible, can’t remember if they loosened up the rules or if it was after Desert Storm. I’m definitely eligible for VFW and AL, waiting to hear back from the VA for my rating, only been 9 months.

    I think the VSO’s did and do serious heavy lifting on the Hill for Veteran’s issues, without a lot of politics, other than supporting veteran’s, i.e. supporting a party over another. I think modern VSO’s that are on the Hill, are political groups and individuals masking as veteran’s groups, especially the start of IAVA. I think IAVA has pulled back, but they were way out in a certain political bent.

    Just like Officer’s and NCO clubs are going the way of the Buffalo, unless someone brings the multiple generations of vet’s together, now essentially Korea, Cold War, Vietnam, Post Vietnam together, they are in trouble. I excluded WWII because my Dad is already gone and these American hero’s are fighting for survival and not much more.

    • Mr Wolf says:

      Otto, I think you hit on something here. What I think is a HUGE contributor to ‘younger’ vets not joining?

      The loss of the NCO/O’ clubs of yore. Back in the day, leaders were used to joining these, and associating and socializing with them. Not so anymore- I don’t think I’ve heard of O-clubs/NCO clubs pushing memberships in over a decade. I know the clubs on MacDill closed down. I think this lack of socialization, at least among the military set, is a big reason VSO’s aren’t as attractive.

      • Charles says:

        Most of the Base clubs are going the ways of the Dodo’s because of two major things. The first is that the DoD has been imposing harsher and harsher rules and regulations with regards to booze. So why go to the base club when the minute you come out of there and the security folks are going to stop you, breathalyze you and arrest you for having anything higher than .00 after you dropped your keys on the way to the car.
        The second reason is that there has been a decade or longer version of toxic leadership hurting the services. So why join the clubs that the leaders who back stab, steal from you, or just step on you for their own careers? Why turn your back on the guys you came up in the ranks with to become the toady of some jerk who is your senior NCO?
        In both cases since there are lest people going to these clubs, then the clubs can’t afford to stay open. I know at all the Navy bases that I have been stationed at since about 2004 the Clubs have changed over to being basically small conference centers and conference rooms that offer catering as well for reasonable pricing or for free depending on the event.

  29. Post Commander says:

    I have always been taught you could be part of the problem or part of the solution. I choose to be part of the solution. I have become the post commander replacing the 83 year old past commander. I can tell you our post is not the good ol boys club. Sure there are older members who frown and are not excited about change but we keep moving forward. Many of the older members, including the past commander, believe the future of our organization is the younger members.

    I know it is hard to be involved because I am not one of the retired old members, I still have children in elementary and high school.

    I believe we need to make the posts more family friendly and that is what i am working on at our club and I believe I have the support of many in our post.

    Thank you for your service!

  30. Charles says:

    I am one of those younger OEF/OIF vets that has been disappointed with my local VFW hall. As a kid, a number of my relatives from my dad to my grandparents and more than a few uncles or cousins were members of the VFW. I remember the VFW’s not only held meetings every month, but at least twice weekly there was how to fill out the benefits forms for SBA, Education, Medical, Housing, etc for the veterans with a VSO rep who knew how to work the system to get approval. They were also out and about in the community, running a food trailer during the 4th of July picnic, collecting for the poor or homeless during the winter months, putting flags on all a good number of veterans graves in the local cemeteries or raising money to replace work gravestones for those with no survivors, raising money via a Santa house or in one case running a menorah during Chanukkah, heck for a while at one in Valley Forge during the summer they used to run a kiddie matinee for a buck fifty (dropped off around 10am and we got a cartoon, a B-reel movie or a serial and lunch of sandwiches or burgers and dogs), then they would always be raising money or having action teams to support the USO. At the same time they would be putting out mailers to candidates for state or federal offices about Vet specific issues, if not holding meetings for the candidates to meet the voters.
    That was all stuff I remember from the 1980s from various VFW’s around the PA, VA, MD area.

    Now in the 21st century, when I showed up to my local hall to ask for the VSO service officer to help with my education claims. I get told that they work M-F and 12-1201 at the local unemployment office on the days that end in Z. Ditto for assistance in navigating the medical forms that are needed to start any sort of claims. As others have pointed out, the inability of all three (DAV, AL, VFW) to purge those who are in the ranks with Stolen Valor makes it hard to take the organizations seriously. Then there is the fact that I talked my wife into joining the auxiliary and listened to her tales of cat fighting and shady folks running the dang aux which makes her job as a program manager at the big employer in town seem easy. Ditto for the venom that carried over from the aux meetings into the regular membership meetings as people who feel as if their spouses were slighted by aux members or the various sub committees. Then to close it all out my local not only doesn’t make an honest effort to actively recruit, but if it wasn’t for the fact that I got lost in town I would never have know where the dang hall was. There is no parking except for street parking. They are located in a nasty neck of town that I am the minority and feel unsafe after hours in. The other hall in the other end of town is just as worst, but the parking is better and there at least is a satellite sheriff’s office in the same same block.

    So if I can’t seem to get the same help in claims like what my other relatives used to get, they have fakers in their ranks that the locals are unwilling to purge and even the national is unwilling to force the locals to purge, that its full of silly folks looking to make a name for themselves over things that are basically rearranging deck chairs; then what is the point of belonging beyond throwing some coins that way for the representative in the lobbying?

  31. Isnala says:

    Okay time for some humble pie, in my opinion. Any organization be is VSO, walking club or cub scout pack is going to be what the members make of it. Having just retired I joined both the DAV and AL. Both welcomed me in with open arms. At an AL meeting last month I asked about the post web page and who to talk to about getting it updated. Their response was, we don’t have a web master at the moment, would you like to take it on. Now I could have just said no that is okay it not worth the effort, but instead I said SURE I’ll take a crack at it.

    I will admit some may have had bad experiences, but not all posts, groups, etc, are created equal, don’t judge the entire org based on the actions of a few members/post.

    I guess the point I’m making if a particular local VSO chapter isn’t welcoming find one that is. Also many of the Service Officers are VOLUNTEERS, so maybe instead of complaining about office hours, find out why they are so short (maybe it is a lack of volunteers) and if you can help expand them. Middle of the day doesn’t work for you see what it would take to hold a once a month nightly seminar/meeting, then work to make it happen.

    -Ish

  32. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I resemble that! (You kids, get off of my lawn! Where’s my beer?!)

  33. MWD says:

    I first would like to say to everyone, thanks for your service! In an all voluntary military we joined because it was something we wanted to do. I also feel that we still want to serve even when we get out and that is why we look into these organizations; so we can still contribute to the greater good. I have been involved with these organizations since 1998 and I am 50 years young. The organizations I belong to are VFW, DAV, AL, 40&8, Cooties and on the local Veterans Day Parade Committee. Over the years I have run across everything that has been posted on this page, rude people, drunks, bickering and those that are too good to do anything but ready to tell you how you are not. But for me, I did not care! I wanted to continue the fight/service and that is why I found a program/s that suited what I wanted to do. To take care of our veterans! That’s why I jump in to be a Service Office and now I am service officer for two American Legions and my VFW. I know this is a very true statement but I am blessed to have a supportive spouse because I almost always have something to do. My point here and a CHALLENGE to everyone who made a post here is to “Don’t Wait” for someone to ask you to do something. Be proactive in a program and you will be surprised at the results… Cheers and God Bless