November 11, 2009, - 5:19 pm

Sadness on Veterans Day as American Legion, VFW Struggle

By Debbie Schlussel

When I was in high school, I won college scholarships from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts in my Detroit-area community.  And as a winner, I went to their posts’ weekly or monthly dinners to read my award-winning essays.  There were several things in common about all of the people there:  they were all patriots, they had all been in the military (most of them having fought in wars), . . . and they were all very old.


That was two decades ago.  Now, the members of the American Legion and VFW aren’t extinct, but they’re well on their way.  Many of them have died out, and the current members are even older and grayer than the ones I saw two decades ago.  The local VFW post, in the city where I grew up and still live–where I read my essay on “What It Means to be an American” at a potluck dinner they held– is now gone.  In its place is a Walgreen’s drugstore.  And, sadly, that is the path of many American Legion and VFW posts. Even the beautiful art deco logos of both organizations are a symbol of a much richer, long gone past.

Today’s younger veterans and soldiers don’t join the VFW or the American Legion.  To them, it’s just a bunch of old people.  And it’s not hip.  That’s too bad.  These organizations and their local posts were a common meeting ground for America’s masculine men, America’s patriots, and, for the most part, America’s working class.  You would think these places–where man can be men–would be popular.  But the contrary is happening.  (The same goes for a Jewish version of these groups, the Jewish War Veterans, which is largely made up of older members.)

Unfortunately, as the American Legion and VFW groups die out and younger vets stay away, the groups are making more and more cuts to survive.  It seems it’s a melancholy aim at prolonging ultimate death:

GALESBURG, IL–The future of VFW Post 2257 might hinge on the life span of its worn-out, 50-year-old boiler and attendance at weekly bingo games this winter.

Like many Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, Post 2257 in this western Illinois city of 31,000 people is struggling to survive as older members die and younger veterans decide not to join.

Nationally, the number of VFW posts declined from 8,374 in 2007 to 7,915 as of June, spokesman Jerry Newberry says. The American Legion has 14,150 posts, down from 14,260 two years ago, spokesman John Raughter says.

More than a building is at stake here and at other troubled posts, says quartermaster Mike Lummis, who keeps the books for Post 2257. VFW and American Legion posts, both founded to fight for veterans’ benefits and promote patriotism, quickly became havens where veterans could talk with peers about experiences and problems, members say. Beyond the physical posts, both groups have long been vital presences in communities, marching proudly in parades, placing flags in cemeteries and sponsoring scholarships and Little League teams.

Some younger vets buy into the misconception “that all this organization is is a bunch of old warriors sitting around blowing smoke and in a lot of places drinking beer and telling war stories,” Lummis says. “Well, that’s not correct at all” — especially at Post 2257, where zoning rules bar alcohol sales.

“We look after our fellow vets whose lives were never the same and the ones fighting in the current wars and the wars that will come,” Lummis says.

As national membership in the VFW dips — down from a peak of 2.5 million in 1992 to 1.5 million as of June — VFW posts have to change, Newberry says. Local posts are encouraged to welcome female vets, offer family friendly programs such as child care and to make veterans who are having trouble with civilian life feel comfortable. “You have to give them a reason to join,” he says.

American Legion membership is down from a peak of 3.3 million in 1946 to 2.6 million members at the end of last year, but has 50,000 more members now than in the mid-1960s, Raughter says. It is mailing invitations to veterans, including women, using Facebook and Twitter to tell them about the benefits of belonging, he says, and sponsors youth activities such as baseball to attract vets with young families. . . .

For some generations of vets, the organizations still have a strong reputation of fighting for veterans’ benefits, guiding veterans to medical and educational aid and helping them financially.

Disabled Army veteran John Anderson, 67, says American Legion Post 1 in Reno came through for him in a “very desperate situation.” After Anderson’s wife, Mary, 71, had two major surgeries in a short span, the American Legion “paid the rent and helped us back on our feet,” he says. . . .

Still, three Virginia posts closed this year . . . .

VFW Post 5318 in Canton, Miss., has 29 members, all but two of whom served in World War II. Quartermaster Oscar Garland says it once had as many as 200 members. The post sold its building and used proceeds to erect a World War II memorial.

Albert Landsperger, state commander of South Carolina’s VFW, says it’s so poor that the Internal Revenue Service had seized its headquarters when he took over in 2007. Last year, the state had 17,515 VFW members; so far this year, it has 13,532.

“I am worried,” says Terry Daugherty, commander of VFW Post 4174 in Lehigh Acres, Fla. “I don’t know how we’ll survive when the Vietnam vets are gone.” Membership is holding steady at about 400, but only about 40 are active.

Nationally, the majority of American Legion members are Vietnam veterans, Raughter says. Newberry says the average age of VFW members is 55-60.

Read the rest.

While some VFW and American Legion posts are flourishing, many are not. This is very sad news. These organizations are important American institutions. They’re symbols of the hard work and lives many Americans led after World War II, Vietnam, and Korea. And their members are good working-class and middle-class Americans who made our country great. Their decline, to me, is America’s decline.  The end of an era.

And don’t think the two falls are not related.  The members of these two groups–the VFW and the American Legion–are the salt of the earth, the salt of the American earth.

And America is losing that salt, a flavorless nation of men who no longer fraternize over pool tables and bars in dark, dilapidated rooms to trade war stories.  Instead, there’s more yearning for video games and rap . . . even among our most masculine servicemen.

I hope they find a way to turn things around.

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45 Responses

Hi Debbie!

I just found your site and also your twitter feed. Very glad I did! You’re right, this is very sad.

May I suggest one side-reason for this? Smoking bans have gone into effect all around the country, and many of our vets smoke. In the bars at VFW halls, many have felt the pinch of people who no longer come for a smoke, drink, and good friendship. Our local community was going to exempt the local military halls from the ban, but they decided not to. Hence, they are feeling the pinch like almost every bar in town these days.

I don’t want to make this a smoking issue by any means, but it would be a good idea to compare these numbers to bar closings as well- I suspect they’ll mimic each other, if not be a bit better than bar-closings due to the good fellowship to be had at the VFW hall.

AllenH on November 11, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Well done and thanks, Debbie. I’m a member of both the American Legion and the VFW in my town and the memberships have been plummeting for several years now. We need to find a way to get the attention of the young vets from the Gulf War and the GWOT.

FrankLaughter on November 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm

“Some younger vets buy into the misconception “that all this organization is is a bunch of old warriors sitting around blowing smoke and in a lot of places drinking beer and telling war stories,” Lummis says. “Well, that’s not correct at all””

sorry but every VFW and American Legion Hall I have been to was exactly that. Couple old drunks who were in the army for six months back during Korea sitting around talking about old times.
It also didn’t help with the WW2/Korea vets looking down on the Vietnam Vets. The older generation pushed away the younger one til they realized that they were literally dying out of an organization. They drive to get the younger vets just reeked of desperation and shallow false respect.

The Gulf War helped with the rise in accepting the younger vets but they still didn’t update their organizations for today. They may be changing but they brought their problems on themselves. America’s vets deserve better.

ender on November 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

It’s pretty clear that the weakening of the VFW and American Legion is due primarily to the general attack on the military that has been going on in the US for the last 40+ years, with brief exceptions under Reagan and for a time, with our intervention into Iraq in the early 90s and early part of this decade. This onslaught has cast a pall on all virtually military organizations, and the massive and excessive downsizing of the military after the Cold War hasn’t helped either.

Patriotic organizations are the butt of jokes in the media, late-night “comedians”, and among most Democratic politicians, and all-too-many Republicans as well. It is part of an overall cultural trend.

We have all kinds of bailouts and “stimulus” money going to crooks, and people living beyond their means waiting for the taxpayers to bail them out, but where are Obama, and, before him, Bush, in supporting worthy organizations like these dedicated to supporting American ideals?

This is just symptomatic of the cultural and political sickness of our society. Debbie deserves a lot of credit for writing about this. It hasn’t been publicized very much at all.

Little Al on November 11, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I have a friend erging me to join the VFW in my community for months now but always put it off. Maybe since Debbie brought this issue to my attention I’ll take a look, however there’s a smoking ban in my state and I know theVFW still allows smoking in its facility and I just can’t handle that anymore. I applaud Debbie for focusing on this issue but if you haven’t noticed our entire society headed down hill for several years now with uplifting of single-motherhood turning out half-raised men, we don’t stand much of a chance these days.

seahawker on November 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

These two American post-service organizations asked for what they are now experiencing. They had all the members desired right after World War II, enjoyed the Korean vets enrolling, but when it came time for 500,000 Viet Nam vets…they did what?

Next to nothing. Those few who did join and who now straggle into either one are not enough to stem the bleeding, self induced through ignorance and arrogance.

It’s a pity, a real sad story. I don’t belong because they still don’t understand they need people like me, even though I am not important, nothing special, just one veteran who understands fellowship, unity and other ideals most of those old members seem to have misunderstood.

My hunch is that there is more activity at VA hospitals than one realizes. Pity…

RJ on November 11, 2009 at 8:00 pm

It is Veteran’s Day and I feel I should put something on you tube for the veterans, so I did: The Stars and Stripes Forever Sousa/Horowitz

This fine piece was arranged by Jewish pianist although he never wrote it down, but a fellow from Maylasia did.

Underzog on November 11, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I was making small talk with a patient at the dental office I work at not too long ago. It turns out that this man is a member of the local VFW and once he found out that I was a veteran (Army medic 1989-1994), he invited me to visit. He said that they are really trying to get the younger Desert Storm veterans in. He told me about a lot of the work they do for charity. This is done without fanfare and just because they want to help others…not to make themselves look good or because of some political ideology. Being a younger female vet he really encouraged me to at least check it out. Your story reminded me of this patient and his invitation. I am giving more thought to it. Happy Veteran’s Day to all and I want to thank all of the veterans for their service!

Angela04 on November 11, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Debbie, I can only speak from my experience. I served in the Coast Guard from 77-81. I’m a peacetime vet, and would have welcomed participation in a VFW or American Legion…if they had any activities which intrest me. But I don’t drink,and the places here are nothing but dismal bars.The VFW in my town closed last year,and the Legion is not doing too well. What do they do for the community? They put a magnetic sign on the side of a car and ride in a parade on the Fourth. Veterans Day and Memorial Day they show up in uniforms…and that’s it.
What do they have to offer vets such as myself who do not want to hang around with drunks? Absolutely nothing.

Douglas Q on November 12, 2009 at 1:00 am

    For those sea service vets disenchanted with what the VFW and American Legion have to offer, Give the Fleet Reserve Association a look. We’ve been advocating for enlisted and former enlisted Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard since 1924. We sponsor Americanism; Hospital, Welfare, and Rehabilitation; Youth Activities; and Public Relations programs in local communities.

    FRA Shipmate on May 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    To the other peace-time vets. Be proud of your service. I spent 1975-179 with the the Old Guard of the Army. I estimated one time that I had participated in between 800-1000 military funerals in Arlington National Cemetery for Army personal, retirees, and their dependents final ceremonies. “I am not eligible.

    Dan Miles on November 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

Debbie, it is always wrenching to lose a bit of our childhoods, especially when we realize we are becoming those “gray heads” ourselves. However, “To everything there is a season” Those are lyrics to a pop song. They were written by Shlomo Hamelek (King Solomon) in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)almost 3,000 years ago. Good advice to life by if we don’t want to become brittle and bitter old %&*@

MK750 on November 12, 2009 at 4:16 am

I am a Vietnam War combat veteran. I joined both the VFW and American Legion, upon my return to the USA. I left both after I ascertained that these organization were, in fact, taking actions which were inimical to the interests of veterans. Inclusive of the same was their support of laws which actually resulted in employment discrimination against veterans. They supported Federal laws which required veterans to list their veteran status on employment forms but which had no efficacious enforcement provisions for veterans preference and/or prohibitions against discrimination against veterans.
I viewed and continue to view these organizations, as a result, as “false advocates” who have close associations with the “Washington Establishment” and which,as a result, are more supportive of the same than veterans.
Many veterans concur with me with regard to the aforementioned.
The fact that the absolute and relative number of American men willing and/or able to serve in our military has declined significantly since the War in Vietnam is indicative of the failure of these organizations, the American government, and the American people. to support veterans.

C.V. Compton Shaw on November 12, 2009 at 7:30 am

    That requirement did result in discrimination. My first husband served as a Viet Nam era officer having gone thru 4 years of ROTC. We were extremely blessed in receiving the posting he got which had been changed from Ft. Jackson, SC at the last minute. He had managed to get an MBA before having to do his tour. We came back to the States in mid-1970 had he proceeded to look for a job. Had he not gone ROTC and taken his chances he could have walked into a nice paying position upon receiving that MBA. I will never forget his coming home from an interview with a major industry in NYC, one day saying that the interviewer actually told him that he should have been ashamed of himself for participating in that war and that he would never hire anyone who had. Others didn’t say it but were probably thinking it.
    Shame on the Veteran’s organizations for aiding and abetting such discrimination.

    MK750 on November 12, 2009 at 7:49 am

Dam shame.

Joe on November 12, 2009 at 10:14 am

I joined my local American Legion post a while back – for one year. While they and the parent organization certainly do some good, the local post is mainly a social club and the parent organization is much like AARP – a PAC for aging vets with an eye towards federal nannyism. Not my cup of tea.

Manfred on November 12, 2009 at 10:18 am

Just joined the American legion- thanks for the idea!!!

Agnes B. Bullock on November 12, 2009 at 12:10 pm

The VFW sponsors NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick. Good exposure for them.

smudge on November 12, 2009 at 1:20 pm


I’m a “LIFE” member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans.

I remember attending a DAV meeting where a member walked out, because all the cigarette smoke was making him sick.

I remember a VFW bartender giving me a hard time because I only wanted to drink a Coca-Cola.

I also remember good times, good comradeship, and local worthwhile service projects.

Each Veterans Day, I would march with my comrades in the big parade, and afterwards, we’d go to elementary schools and high schools to talk to the kids, where I also would play my guitar and sing for them.

But, on the National level, I am very disappointed in ALL of the veterans organizations, for they are in bed with the politicians, promoting legislation which violates the Constitution, and perpetuating the “politically correct” contemporary status quo.

Thank you.

John Robert Mallernee on November 12, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I have received an invitation to join the VFW. I was interested in joining but not after I read their requirements. I had to have served over specific time periods when the VFW considered the US at war.

I served 4 years on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS Eisenhower, from 1977 to 1981. We spent some 9 months at sea during the Iranian hostage crisis.
Unfortunately, the VFW does not consider this as “worthy” military service.

Victor Irby on November 12, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Very interesting info regarding Vietnam vets and listing vet status on employment info. Also in regards to legislation to support vets and the parent organizations. Thanks for posting that! I had no idea!

AllenH on November 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Debbie and all Veteran’s and supporters, I say thank you. I remember when I was a kid I asked my dad, an Army combat veteran of the Vietnam war (3/187 101st ABN) why he wasn’t a member of the VFW and he told me that he didn’t really feel welcomed by them. I sort of took it with a grain of salt, but when I came home from the war in Aghanistan/Iraq as a combat infantryman with the Army (2/187 INF, 101st ABN) I decided to join the VFW because I knew we were supported by our fellow veterans…I mean heck, these men were my grandfather’s generation and I knew that if anyone on the planet loved me unconditionally it was my grandpa and his buddies, my grandfather was a World War II veteran(325,82nd ABN), so I drive myself to town and go to talk to someone about joining up, and this fat, smug, loudmouth starts giving me a lesson in life and basically talking down to me about joining their organization. So I decided I wasn’t going to beg them and if they all shut their doors, well they did it to themselves.
Sorry that it is that way, but you reap what you sow. Maybe they will learn a lesson before it is too late.

Dave on November 13, 2009 at 12:36 am

You are couching this story in such a manner as to blame
today’s younger veterans for the AL and VFW’s current plight.
The typical shame and blame tactics of the far-right conservatives and so many members of the so-called.
‘greatest generation.’ Read these replies. These bigoted
geezers brought this upon themselves when they smugly turned
Vietnam veterans away just as they are turning Gulf and OIF/OEF
veterans away. They don’t even consider the veterans from these wars to even be veterans, Americans, or even men. And
yes, they DID lobby hard to have the veteran checkoff blocks put on all employment applications so that they could deliberately and specifically discriminate against Vietnan veterans and if the majority of them were not today deceased,
they would still be virulently discriminating against Vietnam and younger veterans.

John Mudd on November 13, 2009 at 9:11 am

Despite serving twelve years honorably during the Cold War, Grenada, Just Cause, and Desert Shield/Storm, the VFW doesn’t consider me eligible to join as a full member because during those campaigns, I just happened to be serving somewhere else in the world. Well, I refuse to join an organization that discriminates against vets like myself and will never join as anything less than a full member. I’ve earned it, whether the VFW thinks so or not. The VFW is only hurting itself and needn’t bother looking any further than its own charter (and some of its members) to discover why they’re struggling.

Ghost Rider on September 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

I served in the US Navy for 6 years from 1976 to 1982. As a peace time veteran I am not welcome to join the V.F.W. or A.L. If they don’t need me I don’t need them.

Peacetime Vet on October 21, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I served on board USS America CV66 during Operation Fluid Drive in 1976. The ship and task group was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for the evacuation of US nationals from Beirut Lebanon but we are not even considered eligible for membership in the VFW or Legion. The Legion and VFW wants members in their establishments but don’t want to change the eligibility requirements for membership. I was once told by my barber in front of several veterans in his shop, that my Beirut status is not eligible for membership. The sad thing is he never even deployed out of the country during his 4 years of active duty and he was post commander of the local legion hall at the time he told me this. So, to bad on your membership losses Legion and VFW, change your rules of eligibility and you may gain more members

Rick M on August 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm

You missed the root cause of why the vfw’s are failing. Very small political cliques get control then network top to bottom because quality leaders want no part of it. Apathy is rampant throughout the organization causing non participation. World War 2 and Korea war vets are dying out. Vietnam vets were refused memberships at the close of the war. Of course these vets resented being treated like dirt. When the vfw relented only a few joined and most of them only wanted to drink and chase women. Many posts and members have been sued for sexual harassment and worse. The vfw has a terrible image problem with a majority of low class members. It is all too true.

Now what few Vietnam vets left are being pushed out again because Gulf, Afgan, Iraq Vets want to control. Politics reigns supreme and that combined with arrogrance, bullies, and apathy get very unqualified leadership from the top level down. And from what I see running for future top level positions it is getting much worse. The VFW is doomed and it is so tightly controlled even objective reporters can’t investigate to get at root causes. The vast majority of today’s vets turn up their noses and all you hear constantly is do not join the vfw. I don’t know about the American Legion or other vet organizations. However, I do know the vfw is consumed with crooked politics.

Johnny Marching Home on March 5, 2012 at 1:12 am


As a member of American Legion Post 221, Niceville, Florida, we salute you for you article.

Our post is made of patriotic young and old men and women, former servicemen from all of the branches of service.

Our post has sponsored my Boy Scout Troop for over 20 years. Notably the AL charters more BSA packs and troops than any other non-religious organization. They provide us with a place to meet, storage of gear, a place to park our trailer and other genuine recognition of the scouts as well as giving a generous amount to support the cost of Eagle projects for our troop. In addition, our post supports local academic, sports and other non-profit groups in our area.

Our new members are active and do not mind hanging around with old guys, since they realize as military men they are the next generation of AL members.

This organization will not die. It is experiencing tough times now, as you point out in your article, but as long as we have a military we will have the American Legion.

Panhandle on March 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Debbie, you make a really good case but you miss the point. Any antiquated organization that disrespects potential members doesn’t deserve to survive.

My Dad knew this personally. He served admirably aboard a US Navy 7th Fleet Ship (the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club as he joked). When he came home, he went to his local VFW and the Vets from WWII laughed at him so hard, they nearly put out their cigars in their beers.
The American Legion guys just glared at him and told him to get lost.

Flash forward 25 years to the mid 1990s. My Dad is getting tons of invitations from VFW and American Legion. Some old guy even kept showing up at his door implying “that it’s his patriotic duty to join”. As my Dad said, “where the F**** were these guys when I needed them back then??”
My father never got over this diss by these old jerks. And neither have a lot of other Vietnam Vets either.

In conclusion, the local VFW Post had to merge with two others while the Am_Legion closed it’s post in 2000 and sold the building and land.

Sorry Debbie, but these old codgers shot themselves in the foot. Cocky and full themselves after having beaten Hitler and Mussolini, Tojo, they never thought the good times would end. They dissed Vets from other Wars thinking they’d never get old.

They dug their own graves……..

Lazlo E. on November 20, 2012 at 5:42 am

I have been a member of the VFW for years now… Unfortunately its not that they are not hip, its that they are more concerned about banquets and memberships and don’t really stand for anything other than a meal funraiser, keeping the bars going and a comp and pen. They have changed on the national level but not on the local level.

They always say they want passionate members at all meetings, from national all the way down to district to individual meetings themselves. When they do get young members, they don’t listen. Today’s generation of veterans are very concerned about the current issues politically pertaining to veterans especially on rights they fought for. The organization takes no stance on laws that harm veterans privacy. (Such as a law a veteran spoke up about in Massachusetts that requires access to medical records having to be submitted. His concern was it could be used to discriminate against veterans with PTSD and used as an excuse to deprive them of rights. He wanted the VFW to take a stance on it as he said this is what my generation is looking for, organizations willing to take a stand no matter how controversial. This would have a negative affect he stated, on soldiers getting treatment for these issues and would exasperate a problem of people not coming forward for fear of being discriminated against for doing so.) But because they don’t want to rock the boat they didn’t listen to him.

The VFW’s are constantly talking about getting new members, but when they do get them not only don’t they listen. They just talk about budgets, a warm meal held at such and such a place. Soldiers today need more than a bar and funraiser banquets. They have talked about spartan races, helping veterans in need personally, and being active in the political spectrum of their rights and making sure the laws that harm the law abiding and veterans must be opposed. They want to stand for something! They look to these organizations like the VFW to be that outlet, to takes stances the 2nd amendment, hippa laws, privacy concerns, suicide rates and getting soldiers to come forward by opposing bad laws that stigmatization and take away a right to privacy. Housing market crashes that hurt deployed soldiers who are now underwater and couldn’t sell as their housing market value plummeted. We need to stand for something or let the passionate members of our organization thrive instead of hiding behind rules and regulations as an excuse to not change. Or let other organizations lead the way for what we are unwilling to do. We need to stop looking at younger members as not earning their say yet. The leaders in power at the moment don’t even talk to some of the younger crowd, unless they are next in line to take over. Example: Would be the world war 2 era who is currently passing the torch to the Vietnam and Korean war era veterans. They might be young wipper snappers, but they are the future of the organization. Stand for something they believe in and membership will take care of itself to some degree.

We need to start listening when someone stands up and speaks about what they want to do and stand behind them and try to make it happen. We need to make their passions our own, as comrades with a common goal. Not comrades who look out for their war era’s goals.

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hollister on September 21, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I am an Iraq vet having served in the first years of the conflict. My National Guard unit was one of the first called up for support services.

That said, I looked at the VFW and American Legion. I went to both of their “Posts”, lodges really. I was not impressed by what I saw. Yup, the typical stereotype of a bunch of old, fat vets from wars gone by sitting around a smokey, dank dive bar smoking/drinking and swapping war stories. I asked the Quartermaster about activities for young guys like me. “Well, we sponsor mini-cars in the 4th of July parade. We hold a golf tourney. You like to have a drink, we have a full bar?”
I couldn’t believe that….no wonder these organizations are dying off.

Instead, I joined IAVA, the Iraqi-Afghanistan Veterans Association.

They don’t have “lodges” or “posts”. They just successfully advocate and assist young vets with the VA. It’s a high-tech, 21st century advocacy organization.

In conclusion Debbie; VFW, American Legion, AMVETS are bunch of 20th century organizations, when life was far simpler. Who the hell has time to sit around and swap war stories and drink or smoke (I don’t drink or smoke) in this day and age??? We young vets want to move on with our lives, get careers going and maybe start families.

Rob M. Jr. on October 16, 2013 at 1:07 am

    First off, thank you for your service to our country Rob.

    Desert Storm / Iraqi Freedom Veteran, 1990-2004, U.S. Army.

    I definitely agree with you. I live in the central valley of California (Visalia) and there is no activity whatsoever going on with the American Legion here OR Amvets.

    I was in the same situation. I was wanting to start various activity programs for these organizations but they all (seniors) refused and didn’t want my help. Instead they just invited me to their little “boys” club and drink with them and swap war stories. First off…I don’t drink, never have drank my entire life, never will drink! I do not smoke either. Second, I refuse to sit around all day in a bar and do nothing but drink.

    It’s very sad! I was wanting to do something “POSITIVE” for these veterans but no one seems to want to do ANYTHING!

    I’m glad they served…don’t get me wrong. But come on! In today’s world all these organizations will die out and no longer exist soon.

    I’m receiving 100% service-connected disability from V.A. and retired at 45. Was wanting to join some kind of veteran organization without boozing it up or sit all day and talk war stories….guess that will never happen since no one gives a rat’s ass anymore!

    Mark M. Oldridge on January 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Membership eligibility in VFW or the American Legion is bias against many veterans and costs them members as well. I am a veteran and have seen combat, although it wasn’t during the timelines listed as eligible. Funny, I and others like me are not eligible, but many others who sat stateside during these eligible timelines (and saw nothing), are eligible.

I don’t see these the members of these organizations as patriots. To earn my respect and see them as patriots, all members should fight for equality among veterans. All or none. The you can call yourself a patriot.

AMVets don’t discriminate.

DonC on May 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Part of the problem is this country hates the military, the Vietnam vets discriminate against the younger generation of vets at every turn from the Legion halls to the lovely VA.
I dealt with many VA reps all Nan era losers, that find any excuse to not help or do their F…. job!! If a fellow Nan era vet goes for help, no F…. problem, but hey, that’s just my experience!! We need vet reps of this generation to become reps that should cut down the BS.

Nick on August 24, 2014 at 12:53 am

I just left a DAV chapter meeting tonight. It’s ironic that I went there with hope of finding help with shortness of breath and working with the VA. The only thing that I got from them was the futility of how they spent most of the meeting talking about budget items . That and gagging from the smoke banking down from the ceiling that took my breath away.

The future looks pretty bleak for these folks. Aside from those have recently died from lung cancer the rest seemed like they were back in the 50’s.

Dan on September 9, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I got enrolled in my hometown Legion post years ago while on active duty by a family member who paid my dues every year. A few years back the family member died (as did most everyone else in the post) and the post disbanded. Long before I even joined, the post had sold its building and shared space at a Lions club. I decided to transfer my membership to a local post where I now live (the stereotypical smoky dive bar good ol’ boy club). The first time I stopped in, had to ring the doorbell because I didn’t have a key card. The toothless old lady bartender cracked opened the door and rudely asked me ‘can I help you’? I responded with yeah, I would like to have a beer. And she said this was a private club for members only. I informed her that lucky for me I am a member and stuck my membership card in her leather face. She let me in reluctantly and the few old dudes at the bar puffing away just stared at me and never said a word. Not exactly a warm welcome. That was 5 years ago. Every year I mail in my dues, never show up to anything, and never get a call or letter, except from national when its time to pay dues. Obviously they are content with their own group or they would have reached out to me by now. I only pay dues because I do believe in what the organization does for veterans. But I have no interest in the rituals or trying to fit in to the old mans club.

Jeff on July 6, 2015 at 3:24 pm

AMVETS is one of the most welcoming, non-discriminating Veterans Organization. Our state department of AMVETS is currently making a strong attempt to turn the stigma around, and fully become an organization that actually helps veterans.
There are definitely many posts around my state that are exactly what this article and a bunch of commenters described. They are smoke-filled, good old boys clubs. But then there are the posts that are very active in their communities, welcoming to guests, family and friends, and children, and doing really great things locally.
I was a student veteran just last year, and belonged to a veterans club on campus at the time. I work at our AMVETS state headquarters with a 25 year old female veteran and we have a 27 year old male veteran as one of our service officers (if you don’t know what service officers are, you should look into it. Most VSOs have them.) We’ve put our heads together and decided it would be a huge waste for such an established veterans organization, with a wealth of resources, funding, and non-profit status, to simply go under because it couldn’t make the transition into the 21st century.
If you’re a Veteran in the state of Ohio, I highly recommend you contact our office at 614-431-6990. Rather than trying to fight the traditional old leaders at smoky posts around the state, we are encouraging new members to start their own posts- for free. We’re in the process of setting up pilot posts at schools around the state, and there they have full reigns to create programs of interest- whether that would be mentoring fellow veterans, creating a scholarship, holding Spartan races as fundraisers, or starting a paintball tournament. To start a post, you just need ten members. Worth a thought, anyways!

Maria on October 27, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I wonder how many anti-Vietnam veteran VFW types ever saw combat. It makes you think.

War Sucks on March 23, 2016 at 9:00 am

I am a Vietnam era guy. I was invited to attend and join. I did for one year. Even though the branch was fairly active it was basically a bar with “old guys”…I was their age but they were “old guys”. I don’t have time to sit around in a bar and talk about the past and the “good ‘ol days,” even it it is American Legion. Plus there were power struggles in the leadership.
Naw…at 68 I am still looking ahead, not back, and definitely in a bar with a bunch of drunks.

PhilD on June 29, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Opps…”and definitely NOT in a bar with a bunch of drunks.”

    PhilD on June 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm

What I am seeing here in the comments section, troubles me.I read them carefully and yes, I do sympathize with many of them, but CAN WE BE A LITTLE MORE REALISTIC HERE AND OBJECTIVE. I served 20 yrs in the military, and yes, in that time, I have met many hard-nosed, snobby, pushy and opinionated fellow military of ALL ranks ,backgrounds,etc. SO WHAT!!! Did those people deter me from doing my best for the Navy that I loved? NOPE! Should you let a bartender or fellow VFW member with an attitude,win and deter you from joining and receiving benefits that YOU EARNED?Should some inebriated member be the downfall of an organization that has given MILLIONS in grants for education, when other orgs turned you down? Discounts, grants, help filing VA claims,money for families in need, CMON!!!!
NO ONE SAID THAT THIS GENERATION OF VETERANS, WHO HAVE SACRIFICED SO MUCH, that the VFW is a bar that our vets have to hang out in and listen to other’s war stories. It is about the programs, the work we do for others, your membership fees that help the widow of a veteran, buy groceries or assist with her medication, AND SO MUCH MORE! Just join one yr at a time for almost nothing, and if you want to just volunteer at ONE of the numerous functions,holiday memorials,etc, then is it not worth joining? Please my brothers and sisters, let’s not let the little things divide us and end the good.If we DO that, then evil wins, bad wins, PROGRESS DIES!

Brad Bartz on July 18, 2017 at 2:25 pm

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