Since the 1940s, veteran organizations have been a beacon of service and honor to this country and all men and women who served it. However, with each year that passes, there are new sets of challenges on how best to meet the needs of veterans and succeed as a membership organization in a culture vastly different from 70 years ago.
Over 60 percent of veteran organizations are made up of veterans of the Vietnam era and older. These veterans created and built the VFW, American Legion, AMVETS and other veteran groups into successful organizations. The dedication to serve fellow veterans has been essential in fighting for and acquiring some of the most necessary and life saving benefits and services the veteran community is able to have today. They truly are the foundation of the organizations.
The nation is at the tail end of the longest lasting military conflict in its history, and the brave men and women, who have served simultaneously in two separate wars during this era, in an all volunteer force, are coming home. They are the future of veterans organizations, and just as was done for the past 70 years, they must be provided with the necessary assistance needed to build a career, family and a future for themselves and their communities.
Many interviews with this generation of veterans indicated they are not interested in joining an organization stuck in the “club house” mentality.
New ways of socializing and keeping connected to fellow veterans, like Facebook and similar social media networks, has replaced the fraternal organization model.
The younger veterans find no interest in joining to just sit at a bar, smoke and drink. A strong sense of community service is what appeals to the newest generation.
To bring these organizations up to speed and be successful in attracting and keeping the membership of the younger veterans, utilization of valuable resources already in place must be encouraged to step up and assume key leadership roles. Organizations do not belong to one generation or the next, they belong to all generations. Older members have brought organizations this far, and still have much to contribute. They act as mentors now to inspire the new veterans.
How lucky these organizations are to have had past leaders, men and women, who had the foresight in the founding of veterans organizations and to develop the unwavering missions. That same foresight and drive to carry organizations forward into a successful and lasting future is in many of the younger members.
Use their talents, guide them and allow them to make veterans organizations stronger than ever before, building better lives for veterans and their families for the next 70 years and beyond. Put down the drinks and cigarettes, step away from the bar and start creating an atmosphere for younger veterans.
Happy belated birthday to the United States Coast Guard, created Aug. 4, 1790.
(Contact Vines at firstname.lastname@example.org.)