13 October 2006
Veterans Club Growth
Especially in local posts of the VFW, members are aging and active memberships diminish as people die or simply do not join. Mostly, VFW members are veterans of service in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam. There are few, younger VFW members who served in the current volunteer military. The communications network and programs of VFW chapters are extensive. In every town or city throughout the nation, one finds an American Legion or VFW post--often both. Prior to the 1980's the technical equipment, combat support and gender roles had not changed since World War II. The same organizational structures outfitted the military forces much as had their predecessors, just updated. Combat operations were essentially the same until the Draft was suspended.
Established posts are not seen as desirable organizations by returning veterans of Iraqi, Afghani, Somali and other fields of battle. Further, the women veterans have no comparable, national organizations and do not seem to be joining VFW or Legion posts. There are thousands of returning and retiring women and men from armed conflicts and most have had multiple, combat assignments during their tenure. These more recent veterans are the children and grandchildren of current post members who have little idea of the very different military experience since 1990. Twenty percent--1 in 5--of returning vets today have some degree of disability or continuing physical or mental condition. Creating new veterans organizations, at least initially, could be over-whelming.
As a veteran, I think the VFW and other veterans groups are necessary for keeping the government aware of veterans' life challenges, especially those resulting from having been in recent wars on behalf of the nation. The vaste majority of federal-level politicians have never served in the uniformed military forces. All politicians' longterm memory capacities fade quickly, especially memories without any personal experience. Recall that Roosevelt called out the Calvary, led by MacArthur, to chase encamped veterans of World War I who were destitute or simply entitled to receive their pensions.
I think the younger veterans could establish their own posts as partners or extensions of existing posts. There is no need to reinvent the wheel via a separate national organization. The returning unit members know how to do things and relate to each other in functional units almost as strong as a family. At least that is the analogy one former staff sergeant used. These vets care about each other, having bonded and fought very differently than prior generations of vets did--even though the nature of relationships remain the same.
Rather than giving up on the VFW or American Legion and wringing one's hands about the established post membership, it is time to be creative. To gain the strength of the established national organizations, there is no single way to accomplish the objective. Recent veterans can identify their goals and choose their objectives in ways reflecting their military experience and unit relationships. Local solutions are best because they reflect the uniqueness of the community in which they now live.
Dirty Tricks, Dirty Water, Dirty Bombs
There have been reports about our using dirty bombs and other weapons yet no one is commenting on the radiation effects in the place bombed and any living inhabitants. If nuclear waste material in weapons is harmless, then why does the government--and most of us--fear a terrorist bomb of the same?
If anyone recalls the Congressional hearings or debates about this, I would like to know more. In the meantime, I plan to obtain better, more precise information on these weapons.