Veteran's Organizations Need More from Younger Vets - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Veteran's Organizations Need More from Younger Vets

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The parking lot at the Eagles club isn't as full as it used to be.

The VFW had to move.

The local American Legion does just fine operating out of it's ... 12 by 12 foot office.

Things are changing for veteran's organizations.

The men and women sitting around a table at the local AmVets hall are planning a big event.


An event to celebrate the families of young men killed in the Vietnam War...50 years ago.

Some of them served in that war.

And they're still serving their communities today...

"(Jim Nelson/ AmVets Chaplain) You never quit serving, you know. You want to help your fellow brother, you know, the military is a family."

Jim Nelson serves as chaplain.

He says Vet Organizations can be a life-blood for a community.

They support charities, host events, and lobby the legislature on the behalf of veterans.

"(Nelson) We're active in the community. We try to be. We try to support ... we just try to do our part as best we can."

That's why he's concerned about the lack of participation these days.

"(Nelson) We have a lot of members, we have well over a thousand members..on average meeting night, you know, you've got 25, maybe 30, you jump up and down."

They're seeing similar trends at the American Legion.

"(Steve Schilling/ American Legion Commander) I hate to be a pessimist but I think it's bad for America for the country to lose those community service organizations, because they do a lot of good."

No local organizations have closed yet...but it's a real concern for these groups.

Young members just don't want to join.

"(Schilling) I think people live smaller, or more isolated lives than they used to. You can log onto your computer and watch movies, you don't even have to go to the theater. You can have 500 friends on Facebook and never actually meet any of them."

Times have changed. So the organizations know they have to find ways to change with them.

"(Nelson) I think a lot of it takes leadership, someone who can think outside the box. You may have to reinvent yourself to make it interesting for the younger generation."

"(Howard Burns/ American Legion Post Adjutant) Just start out with one, if you want to participate in more, surely we can accommodate that. But just start out by taking part in one particular project and we'll start out from there."

A recruiting effort is on.

They are after the young veterans, the ones who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because they don't want to lose what they've got...or what they give....

"(Nelson) When you lose one, you've lost a sense of community and once you start to lose the sense of community, it affects everyone in the community."

The event the vets at the AmVets are planning takes place on Memorial Day.

Nelson says he's reached almost half of the North Dakota families who lost loved ones in the Vietnam War.

It's significant work he hopes someone will carry on.


Nelson sets the average age of AmVets members at ... 65.

The national average for the American Legion is almost 70.

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