For some, it has been easier to get members that had family members in wars that have since passed, but it has been harder to get younger veterans to join.
“We’ve been having renewed interest from family members and loved ones of people who have served and sacrificed for the country,” Cenni said. “To be a member of a VFW someone has to at least be a descendant of someone who served in a foreign war, up to their grandfathers or grandmothers. While we’ve had an easy time getting them to join, it has been a struggle to get younger veterans to join.”
“It has been hard to get younger veterans,” Rollins said. “They’re just not joining or looking to join. We have members mostly from Korea or Vietnam, but none that are younger.”
It’s a similar story for the VFW in Dunkirk, according to Commander Ronnie Rollins.
During these difficult times, many places are struggling with membership and attendance. The same goes for local American Legions and VFWs, or Veterans of Foreign Wars.
For Auxiliary President of VFW Post 8647 in Mayville, Deb Cenni, this has been the case.
Commander Bob Sirgusa of the Sheridan VFW in Silver Creek, the story is also the same. The older veterans are passing away and the newer veterans are not joining.
“We have been losing our older seniors,” Sirgusa said. “We have gotten five or six veterans to join over the last year and a half, during Covid, but it has been hard. We have been in contact with the Chautauqua County Tax Department for a list of current veterans, but not all veterans are eligible for VFWs, though they are for American Legions. You had to be overseas in a combat zone to be a part of the VFWs. So we are still working with service officers to help our recruitment.”
SAccording to the current post commander of the American Legion Dept. NY Henry Mosher Post 638 in Falconer, Roger Bingham Jr, the membership problem began before Covid, but has continued and been exasperated by it. “It really has been happening for the last 17 years, but really became stronger in the last 10,” Bingham said. “Our World War II veterans have been dying off, and some from Vietnam have been leaving too. Young guys don’t really know what we do so they don’t join us, so it has been hard to recruit younger guys. American Legions get their money from the bar and the tickets to support our funding, but that’s about all the fundraising we do. We have to work together to be creative and find new ways to recruit younger members. Young people think of us as a club to hang out at. We are all volunteers, but we have to work together to get more creative ways for support and to let the younger members know what we do and get them to join.”
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