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Veterans' Groups Want Younger Members

By: Amanda Lutz
By: Amanda Lutz

At the Veterans Day luncheon, local American Legion and VFW members are reminiscing about their time serving our country. Most are getting up in age.

"I'm 41 years old, and I'm considered the young guy. I'm 41," says Clifford Johnsen, membership chair for the American Legion Post 10 in Wausau.

Members like Johnsen say that's a problem. They're having little success recruiting younger veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of the members in the local American Legion and VFW posts are veterans of World War II and Korea, but they say there are a number of reasons they have trouble getting younger members to join.

"It's hard to get in touch with them. The Freedom of Information Act, we can't find out who they are," says Zane Meranda, 1st Adjutant for American Legion Post 10.

So in most cases, they have to rely on word of mouth to get potential members in the door.

"We have to go find friends of friends, or a neighbors' brother-in-law -- personal contacts," says Johnsen.

They also know new veterans have other obligations, such as jobs and families. But they encourage them to join for personal benefits, such as community involvement and the camaraderie member Bill Sikonia says only veterans can understand.

"You get choked up, and they understand it and you can relate with them a lot better," says Sikonia.

Members say once these new veterans find time in their schedules, they hope they'll turn to these groups.

"You just feel like you have to give back. And that sometimes takes a while to develop," says Meranda.

You can find more information about the veterans' groups by logging onto the following Web sites:

>www.vfw.org
>www.legion.org


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