VFW, American Legion have been supplanted

May 31, 2011

As a Marine combat veteran of the wars since 1990, and someone now in his 40s, your article on the struggles of the VFW and American Legion to raise membership from the current generation of war veterans struck a chord with me ("A changing of the guard?" May 30). There are a number of broad demographic and generational reasons why the younger veterans are not joining these organizations in large numbers, but one comment from the older veterans you interviewed was telling. They said their main mission was to help veterans "get their benefits" from the VA. These organizations and their volunteers play a critical role in that important process, but they have also defined themselves as such for decades, while just in the past 10 years other organizations like Wounded Warrior Project and Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, as well as many other non-profits across the nation, have organized and raised significant funds with low overhead to serve veterans' needs beyond what the Veterans Administration is able or willing to provide.

These 21st century Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) tap into a deep and diverse network of volunteers and donors well beyond that of the traditional VSOs. If the traditional VSOs like VFW and the Legion had been at the cutting edge of this trend years ago, I think they would be seen today as dynamic advocates for empowering veterans and their families with a membership that reflected that approach.

Brooks Tucker, Annapolis

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