I’ve been to many VFW and American Legion posts throughout Chicago and one common factor that I am sure most people see is the lack of support from our returning Vets and supporters. It’s not a secret, walk into a VFW or an American Legion post and you see a few Vietnam and Korean Vets hanging out sharing war stories, talking about politics and complaining about the bears not making it to the playoffs, but there is much more that people overlook. What many people fail to see amazing amount of history within each post. The walls are lavishly decorated in past conflicts combat gear, helmets, rifles, uniforms and insignia’s. Black and white photos are posted like wall paper of famous Veterans and older post members who have passed on. Traditions such as using toy soldiers to redeem a drink are priceless. Museum’s pay thousands of dollars to have a collection of memorabilia and information that VFW/AL posts have on display every day for anyone to see, but even more spectacular are the stories that these posts have. Neither library nor museum could match the tales these Veterans have. Walk into your local VFW/AL post, sit down, order a beer, and ask a member about the post. I guarantee you will learn more about the past conflicts then any book could teach you.
I understand it is very hard for returning Veterans to actually be accepted to the VFW/AL. It has been like that for years. The WWII guys would look down at the Korean War Vets. The Korean War Vets would look down at the Vietnam Vets. Now the returning Vets get looked down by the others, it is almost like a tradition. I completely understand it, I do not agree but I understand. Some members have been going to the same post for over 20 years; it has become part of them. Every time younger guys come in they have a tendency to “change” things and that does not sit well with some members. Things have been the same for 20+ years and now some “young guy” who has been a member for a few months wants to change things? Catch my drift?
Other Veterans organizations are thriving right now such as WWP and IAVA. They know how to attract younger Veterans by using social media. The VFW and AL do great things for our Veterans, but they are having trouble recruiting post 9/11 Vets. But one thing the VFW/AL has that the new organizations do not have are posts. The VFW and AL have posts all over the United States. They have physical locations where Veterans can hangout and socialize. The other organizations have many events and have a few offices that Veterans can go to, but they don’t have a post to call their own, they rely heavily on social media. If the VFW and AL can attract the post 9/11 Vets and get their memberships up, they would have a much larger voice for our Veterans and lobby on our behalf to get the necessary bills passed to help our troops.
Here is our 7 ways on how to help your local VFW/AL post.
7. Membership – Without new members, especially the post 9/11 Vets, posts will never be able to make the necessary changes to upgrade their establishment. New active members will help gain the support and trust from the older Vets
6. Website/Social media – Many older vets are not as tech savvy as the Vets returning home today. Help your local post by creating a FB page or website. If information is not easily accessible online Veterans would most likely not be interested in joining.
5. Become active – Invite your friends to the VFW/AL, host events, get the community involved.
4. Introduce the community to the VFW/AL Post – Offer the community & friends to use the post to host events and meetings, let the community know the post is for them.
3. Make updates – Mostly every VFW/AL post needs to be updated, get the younger guys to help clean up and fix whatever needs to get fixed. The image of the post is reflective heavily on its appearance. Help update it to attract the community to support your post.
2. New Direction – Once membership is up and the post has a following, try implementing a new direction for the post to keep younger members active and new ones interesting in joining.
1. Keep the post entertaining – With sports bars on every corner and competition from dive bars to Starbucks, it is essential to keep your guests entertained. The VFW/AL has cheaper drinks, food and a history that is unparalleled. Keep your guests happy and entertained and they will keep coming back again and again.
Right now there is a VFW hall on the south side of Chicago that is doing just that. VFW post 3940 Connolly Victory Nav Ar Mar is breaking the stereotypes and making a new name for the VFW. Most of their members are post 9/11 Veterans, that’s almost unheard of but they have managed to do it. They allow friends and the community to stop by and hang out. The decor is updated and they don’t allow smoking. This VFW is really making a change for the better. If they are able to, I am sure other posts could do the same. Do you think it’s possible to turn our VFW and American Legion posts around?