VFW Posts Battling Declining Membership

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Local veterans are among the Department of Defense's partners to commemorate the 50th anniversary of each year U.S. troops were sent to fight in Vietnam.

VFW Post 112 in south Wichita will hold commemorations each year through 2025. Members of the post say they hope dwindling membership will not force such services to become a thing of the past.

"We do a lot of community service, awards, scholarships and help veterans and their families," Jim Maske, a former commander of Post 112, said.

Veterans like Maske do not want that type of community service to go away either, but that becomes more of a concern as VFW posts across the country continue to close because of declining membership. Post 112, Maske said, is doing everything it can to recruit more young veterans.

"The biggest problem we have after recruiting them is getting them to the post," he said. "They're younger and they have families, so they've got to take care of the family. (When) they get a little older, maybe they'll show up a little more often. If we survive until then."

U.S. Army Capt. Erik Anthes hopes a community service partnership between Fort Riley soldiers and Post 112 will be one of many that lead to keeping the organization alive and well.

"Part of it is education," Anthes said. "Knowing there is a place for these soldiers when they come back from war. There's a place to come out and to talk."

The VFW Ladies Auxiliary, also facing declining membership, is doing what it can to attract younger members as well, said Ethel Maske, state president of the auxiliary.

"We're trying very much to get the younger in so the older ones can teach them what we are about," she said.

That includes making it as easy as possible for young women to become involved with the support the auxiliary provides to VA hospitals, nursing homes and scholarships for the children of veterans.

"We're even allowing children into our meetings now," Maske said. "That's to help the younger ones to come."

Anthes, the Army Captain, said he is already a life member of the VFW and he hopes other young servicemen and servicewomen will find the organization as a valuable network that can offer everything from help with finding employment opportunities as they transition to civilian life to emotional support.

"The stories are basically the same if you really get to talking with these guys that came before us," Anthes said. "Once you realize that, this becomes home and no matter what post you're at, there's always a common denominator there."

Jim Maske said any service member of any age will always be welcome at a VFW post.

"I don't care what branch of service they are," he said. "If they're proud, we want them."

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