VFW posts looking to grow younger
Today, however, VFW posts nationwide are reaching out to younger veterans in an effort to shave a few years off the face of the organization, said Randi Law, communications director for the VFW's national headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.
Those connections are being made in New Hampshire, said Dana Hussey, state adjutant for the New Hampshire Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
That change is being seen at Derry Post 1617.
"And the new guys are involved," said Starosciak. "They don't just come in to sit for a while. They want to be part of everything we do."
The VFW, a lobbying organization for millions of veterans, traces its roots to two groups formed in 1899 by Spanish-American War veterans. They merged in 1913 and adopted the name Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. The group boasts 7,000 posts worldwide. In 1992, it had 2.16 million members, mostly World War II veterans.
Today, it has 1.5 million. Of that number, only 17 percent - 220,000 - are veterans of post-Vietnam war conflicts, according to the organization's website. In New Hampshire, there are 51 VFW posts. District 7, which includes Exeter, Salem, Portsmouth and Derry, has nine posts, the most of any district in the state.
Hussey said current membership statistics, valid through June 19, show numbers are down in every district this year compared with those in 2012.
Overall, statewide membership is at 8,048 members, down from 8,250 in 2012. District 6, which includes Manchester, Nashua and Bedford, has 1,724 members, down from 1,760 last year.
Once a post is opened, membership is open to men and women veterans who can document they served in a combat zone.
"It used to look exactly like the dark, smoky room you might think a VFW canteen would look like," he said. "But a new coat of paint and cleaning the place up helps draw in some new faces."
"I know when people think of the VFW, they think of the function hall, but that's just a way for a post to raise money," said Morrison. "The VFW is the people there, the programs they offer. It's talking to a stranger 34 years older than you are and realizing they went through the same things you did. And they're ready to listen.''
Hussey said many of the newer family-oriented activities the VFW is offering double as fundraisers. He said several VFW posts still run bingo games.
Others raise funds through ham and bean suppers. And two posts have started junior-girls units, in which daughters and their fathers work on patriotic activities such as ceremonies at the State Veterans Cemetery and visits to residents at the Veterans Home and VA Medical Centers in Manchester and White River Junction, Vt.