Magazine article VFW Magazine

Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Are Largest Group of New Members

Magazine article VFW Magazine

Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Are Largest Group of New Members

Article excerpt

Nearly 40% of VFW members recruited last year were 40 or younger. It's the continuation of an upbeat trend that started in 2003.

The response VFW recruiters used to get when they asked younger vets about their impression of VFW was less than flattering.

"When I think of VFW, I picture old men sitting around swapping war stories and playing pitch, maybe drinking," said Kevin Danciak, a 34-year-old vet of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. "I think these stereotypes would keep me from joining a Post."

That mindset is hopefully fading as more young men and women become eligible for the nation's oldest major veterans organization and begin to discover they're eligible for one of the most elite groups of American war veterans.

"I have to admit that it turned out to be a lot different than I expected, but for the better," said Jada Bass, an Iraq vet and member of Post 9050 in Enderlin, N.D. "I was surprised to find out that there were actually other people my age from my own unit who were members of the same Post."

It appears that more and more of Bass' peers are learning the same lesson. Statistics compiled by VFW's Member- ' ship Department show the largest block of veterans recruited last year, nearly 30%, were under the age of 30. Those recruited in the 31-40 age bracket represented nearly 19%. The next-largest group, nearly 18%, was the 51-60 age segment.

Still, even with these encouraging numbers, most VFW members are older than 70. So when younger vets think of VFW Posts in their communities or see advertisements in VFW magazine aimed at the largest demographic section of readers, they understandably wonder if VFW is an organization a 20-, 30- or even 40-year-old veteran would feel comfortable joining.

"A younger vet looks at the magazine and loves the articles," a 40-year-old Persian Gulf War vet said, "but every other ad appeals to a demographic between 65 and 90. …

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