Local veteran groups look to add younger veterans amid declining memberships

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Participation in the American Legion and VFW has declined across the United States and Eastern Iowa.

Post Commander Daniel Deal said the Cedar Rapids VFW had over 4,000 members when it opened. Membership was down around 500. Deal said the difficulty was recruiting younger veterans.

“It’s hard, you have to plan a lot of recruiting events,” said Deal.

Marine Corps. Veteran Dustin Peterson served two tours in Iraq. When he retired in 2022, he thought social media was going to be enough social connection with others who served.

“I realized I still missed that in-person sharing stories,” said Peterson.

Peterson joined the Marine Corps. League, but said it wasn’t easy for many younger veterans to join as they transitioned back into civilian life, starting a new family, and new jobs.

“I have 3 kids under the age of 10 years old, and they have sports and family commitments,” he said.

It was also because the veterans who were a part of this group were aging. Most of them served in Korea and Vietnam.

“It hurts in a way because our declining members are because of deaths within our veteran groups themselves,” said Deal.

Deal said they would continue to plan new recruitment. The hope was to show younger veterans like Peterson that face-to-face community among those who’ve served has its benefits.

“Everyone raised their hands and signed up to support and defend the constitution,” said Peterson. “What better place to share a little brother and sisterhood than being around those people.”