VFW Members Plan to Fight Dwindling Membership
This past Memorial Day, members of the Palmer Lake VFW gathered at Mound Cemetery in Brooklyn Center to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s just one of the many programs that members of the VFW organize throughout the year, according to State Commander Rick Bugbee.
“We’ve had a lot of great success with these programs, and we love our programs,” said Bugbee.
Bugbee was in Brooklyn Park on Thursday for the annual VFW state convention, where officers plan to elect new leadership. If you talk to the man expected to replace Bugbee, he says that when younger generations think of the VFW, Memorial Day ceremonies aren’t usually the first thing that come to mind.
“The organization has a stereotypical history, if you will, of old veterans sitting around the post drinking liquor and telling war stories and that kind of thing,” said Tom Hanson, the senior vice commander of the Minnesota VFW. “That’s not what we’re all about.”
As a result of that stereotype, Minnesota’s membership has dwindled to about 38,000 members, after being as high as 86,000 in the 1970s.
VFW reaches out to Younger Veterans
“I don’t want to see this organization die,” Hanson said. “And consequently, the younger veterans are our answer to making sure that the organization does not die.”
That’s where people such as Jonell Wilson come into play. She’s in her 30s and served in Iraq for two years as a member of the Minnesota National Guard. She’s now a member of the Palmer Lake VFW in Brooklyn Park.
“I could always rely on the VFW to help veterans that were in need,” Wilson said. “So that’s a big reason why I joined. I knew that they could help and they were always there for the community.”
It’s now her goal, and the goal of many of the leadership at this convention, to sell the benefits of the organization– such as camaraderie and access to veterans’ services — to the younger generations.
“This isn’t just a post where older veterans come to and sit at the bar. We’re more than that,” Wilson said. “We do community events. We’re out getting active. And we want everyone involved.”
The incoming commander of the Minnesota VFW says his goal is to increase membership by ten percent.