According to the Washington Times, membership in the VFW has dropped from 2.1 million in the early 1990s to 1.3 million in 2014. At that time, only 15 percent of eligible veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had joined. The numbers for the American Legion showed a similar trend.
As a millennial Iraq veteran, I have a bifurcated view of these organizations: a local gathering/drinking spot, and a national lobbying organization. While the idea of cheap drinks and conversation is welcome, I have grown up in an era vehemently against any idea of drinking and driving, and I do not live within walking distance of a Post. As a result, I also miss out on other services that the organization offers for transitioning, assistance, or even just discounts.
To engage a generation of veterans who have not yet connected to these organizations, they should create a traveling local Post. It could be hosted in a HOA community center, a parking lot, or a member’s backyard. If local laws will allow, offer the cheap beer experience – but more importantly, bring the service and support that the VFW can offer. Sell a veteran once and gain a member for life.