Tags: vfw | posts | membership | posts

VFW Posts Adapt to Changing Realities

Image: VFW Posts Adapt to Changing Realities

Tuesday, 04 Feb 2014 08:03 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The demand for local VFW posts has dropped noticeably across the country because of demographic changes and as veterans from World War II and the Korean War have aged.

Younger warriors from more recent campaigns are also turning more to social media in search of fellowship rather than the VFW halls that once dotted large and small towns all across America, The Washington Post reports.

"We've dropped under 7,000 posts," said Randi Law, spokeswoman for the national VFW in Kansas City. "Commanders need to adapt and evolve to keep the doors open."

According to the Post, more than 3,000 Veterans of Foreign Wars posts have closed nationwide since 1990 and enrollment in the VFW has shrunk from 2.1 million then to 1.4 million today.

One way some posts are adapting is by welcoming non-veterans and turning their halls into community resources. VFW Bars are being opened to outsiders, the halls have become venues for concerts, weddings, and dances, and some posts even have swimming pools and picnic areas now to entice non-members.

More and more are also holding public events to help grow support for their programs and to attract new veterans.

"If we had to rely on members, we wouldn't exist anymore," said Vietnam vet Mike Casey, commander of the Takoma Park post in Maryland.

But the changes have some vets concerned.

"We've got to remember what the VFW is for," Rich Fales, a former commander of the Takoma Park post, told the newspaper. "It's for veterans to come in and associate with veterans. I'm happy to see all the interest, but we have to be careful how we do this."

The VFW does more than run posts, however. It also lobbies on behalf of veteran interests in Washington, including better VA medical centers and health services for women veterans. It also provides college scholarships, emergency assistance, and undertakes other charitable activities by and for veterans.

Traditionally, however, the fellowship offered through the posts around the country has been one of the most visible signs of VFW activity.

Law said many posts are dependent on the outside community and that the VFW is trying the find the right balance between focusing on its own membership and being accessible to the public.

The VFW organization dates its beginning back to 1899 to the veterans of the 1898 Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection from 1899 through 1902.

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