So naturally I was caught off guard when I came upon a Foxnews.com Veterans' Day story highlighting a divide between military members. The story -- headlined, "Generation Gap Felt at Veterans Day Cook-Out in Chicago" -- reported that the VFW "lost about 200,000 people in just the last year. Younger vets aren't joining groups as commonly as they did generations ago." Attempting to explain this, reporter Ruth Ravve forwards the notion that younger veterans are somehow lacking in "patriotism":
They're not lacking in patriotism, of course, but they might blow the whistle on the whole imperialist scam we've been subjected to for the last ten years, therefore they're 'unpatriotic' to F**Noise phony 'patriots' who never served.
Go read the story. I've got a little story of my own.
I am a Life Member of the Veterans Of Foreign Wars by dint of my heroic involvement in the Dominican Republic Crisis in the mid-'60s wherein I singlehandedly scared the crap outta them pesky Dominican rebels* by cruising offshore for two weeks with a coupla thousand close friends and some air support.
The 1963 constitution guaranteed civil and individual rights, and endorsed civilian control of the military. These and other changes, such as land reform, struck conservative landholders and military officers as radical and threatening, particularly when juxtaposed against three decades of somnolent authoritarianism under the Trujillo Regime. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church also resented the secular nature of the new constitution, in particular its provision for legalized divorce. The hierarchy, along with the military leadership and the economic elite, also feared communist influence in the republic, and they warned of the potential for "another Cuba". The result of this concern and opposition was an U.S. supported military coup d'état on September 25, 1963.
The pro-Bosch rebels, known as "Constitutionalists" for their focus on restoring the constitutionally elected president, took to the streets,...
We were on the wrong-side-right-wing-side once again. We did that a lot. Still do. I like the "took to the streets" part. But I digress.
We had a VFW post here in Truckee that turned away Vietnam and Vietnam Era Vets. I understand this was not uncommon amongst VFW posts. They didn't want them. The WWII Vets (the "tailgunners") didn't think we were "real" soldiers, probably because we "lost" that war. To be fair, they weren't thrilled by Korean War Vets either but they had let them in before they all got old, back when they were fresh back from war and belonging to a Vets' organization was the thing to do, back when millions joined.
I think there was a 'social' element too. It was those old farts' social club and they wanted to restrict membership to their peers.
It worked for them, I guess. Membership dwindled through the attrition of old age and death and they went out of business. I got into it almost by mistake when some Vietnam Vets here in town decided they needed a new VFW post and jumped through all the hoops and got one going. They needed bodies (sound familiar? Heh.) and dragooned my ass into it. A couple of the old members of the previous post showed up too.
Now WE were the old farts! We had fun for a while, did fundraisers and good works. I found out that most VFW posts raise money to fund their pet projects by throwing picnics and selling each other raffle tickets. National HQ raises money from membership fees, but to be fair, they kicked down money to the local posts as well. A big happy circle.
Our post didn't ever have very many members, and interest waned and our post went belly-up less than ten years after it started.
The author of the linked article makes a good point that a lot of today's Vets don't want anything to do with anything that smacks of the military, but might later on in life. The Vietnam Era guys were the same way, and they are the backbone of the Vets' organizations now.
With no post, I'm a "Member At Large". I carry my metal membership card strategically placed in my wallet mostly to ward off RFID theft.
Am I glad I'm still a member? Yes.
I think every Vet should belong to a Vets' organization. You don't have to do anything, and the posts do some good things and have political clout on Veterans issues.
I was a member of The American Legion as well, until one of the big higher-ups came out in support of Bush's Criminal War in Iraq. The AL is open to anybody who wore the uniform. I dropped those fuckers like a hot rock, same as I did the NRA when they went batcrap right-wing. The VFW is smarter than that. A lot of their members have actually been to war.
Unlike the pols who start wars and create Veterans.