So I’m a veteran. I’ve even participated in a foreign war…well, a conflict really, since declaring war went out of style in the 1940s. I’m relatively young, with a young family, and fairly active in my community, despite moving every few years. While I’m not that good looking, I’ve got enough going to make me a good poster boy for the VFW.
But I’m not a member. It’s not just me, VFW posts around the US are hurting for new members. As a Rallypoint member, I’ve seen my share of “You should join the VFW!” posts. Unfortunately, my personal experiences, as well as my dad’s (a Cold War veteran), find the VFW has too many problems:
- Female Veterans. VFWs still struggle to understand that yes, women in fact serve in the military as more than just nurses and yeomen (sorry, yeo-persons). I’ve served with a number of wonderful female officers and enlisted Sailors, and to have them encounter resistance to entry is appalling.
- Action? Besides having a hall to rent out and parades to walk in, most VFWs aren’t exactly places of action. Young vets tend to be healthier and want to be out and about. While most people enjoy throwing back a beer and sharing sea stories once in a while, that can’t be your main draw anymore.
- Updating with the times. The VFW was slow to jump on the revolution in social media. The sad part is that while it is now online, it’ll likely be too slow to adapt to whatever comes next. If you want an organization that quickly adapts to it’s younger members, check out the NRA, which keeps it’s core mission while tailoring messages for women, minorities and police forces.
The really sad part of this is that if you look into the VFW’s history, this isn’t a surprise. The VFW struggled to recruit members after the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and only did so when their existing membership began passing away in large numbers. If they didn’t learn then, I can’t say I hold out a lot of hope for them learning now.
This post is the opinion of the author and doesn’t reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. All images used were labeled for reuse on the internet.
If you’d like to read about how I’d change the VFW to be better, check out my blog.