The Washington Times published an article today on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans staying away from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. These are both organizations that have been around for a long time, and have turned up in newspapers, but times have changed, and the organizations haven’t.
One woman soldier went to one and got the following:
Kate Hoit served eight years in the Army Reserves, including a tour in Iraq, but when she tried to join her local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, someone asked whether she needed an application for military spouses instead.
I dropped in at a local VFW a few months after Desert Storm. I remember it was a older white one story building with cannons outside the entrance. Inside was a dimly lit room with a bar. World War II veterans were seated at it, all men in their 60s.
The VFW vets didn’t ask me if I was a spouse, but they also didn’t really know what to do with me either. They were hurting for membership and new people; apparently none of the Vietnam veterans were signing up because of all the bad feelings from that war. But I had the sense that if I signed up, they would try to get me to volunteer to do paperwork or typing because I was female and that I would always been second class to the men.
First impressions do make a difference. It was the only time I’ve ever looked into a veteran’s organization, and it doesn’t look like much has changed in 25 years.