Local VFW encouraging younger soldiers to stop in

Carleen Wild
Posted 9/11/23

Local VFW

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Local VFW encouraging younger soldiers to stop in


Nearly every Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post nationwide is struggling with an aging demographic and declining numbers. According to Military.com, “the VFW had a record 2.1 million members in 1992. By last year, that number was just a shade over 1 million, meaning it has lost half its members in a generation.”
Those who are a part of Local Post 3351 in Flandreau understand. The few members it currently has meet once a month — and while they talk about community events they might host or take part in, such as Buddy Poppy Days or Memorial and Veterans’ Day Services, the discussion also inevitably turns to how they might encourage others to join the local chapter.
Especially 9/11 Veterans, the anniversary of which was recognized again just this week, or those who have fought in more recent wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think people are really busy, a lot of young veterans have young families, they’re young in their jobs, and they’re crazy busy. And I know, myself, I had the wrong idea of who was a member of the VFW and the legion,” said Post Commander Maj. Bridget Flannery.

“In my head, they were all the old guys that served the drinks at the Legion growing up. I would have never raised my hand except for Roy Schramm, who came to our house and sat at our table, and he said you should come and just try it. And when I’m home, 100%, the best night of the month is Wednesday night, because listening to the stories, it’s just amazing.”
Flannery, who is out of state currently on assignment building a global sexual assault response and prevention program for the Army National Guard, plans to turn her attention to the VFW, its current membership, and outreach to others in the area, when she returns home later this month.
“We do need active members, but we need members. We do great things,” Flannery said as she was working at a recruitment station for the Guard and the VFW earlier this summer in Flandreau.
The local Legion hosts members once a month for their meetings. The small, obscure building that sits set back from the street on a quiet block just down from the Post Office 2nd Avenue in downtown Flandreau is otherwise available to the community to rent out for its own events.  Funds raised from the $50 rental fee go to help support the different programs the local VFW hopes and aims to offer.
The VFW organization itself was established in 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) established local groups to fight for benefits. Many arrived home wounded or sick and there was no care or pension available to them. Initial chapters formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, and the VFW grew quickly from there. By 1936, membership was almost 200,000. The VFW’s collective voice has since helped establish the Veterans Administration, the national cemetery system, compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange, and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. The VFW also helped improve and establish services for women veterans at VA medical centers.
Right now, the local VFW is offering a free membership for the first year. A membership is $35 annually. Among annual members, a drawing will also be held later this year for a lifetime membership that the VFW will pay for.
For more on the local VFW chapter or a membership in the Flandreau or any other chapter, or use of the local space, visit vfwsd.org or contact Flannery and her husband Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class and Quartermaster Randy Tollefson (605) 997-3910. Meetings are the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.