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Editorial: Groups for U.S. veterans more than social clubs

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To many people, an American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post evokes an image of older men sharing a beer and swapping war stories.

While there’s still some of that, it is far from the reality of today’s veterans organizations, and it’s a stereotype the groups are seeking to dispel.

Just as today’s veterans, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, differ from those from the Korean War, so too are the organizations that seek to serve their needs.

This evolution is vital not only to ensure the success of the organizations but to help today’s veterans get any assistance they need. Plus, the posts still remain a place where veterans can talk about issues and share memories that most of us haven’t a clue about.

American Legion Post 24 in Columbus embraced the need to evolve. It had to. State Legion officials closed the local post in September because it lacked the required number of officers to perform a post’s duties.

As part of the post’s efforts to reopen, members appealed to a younger demographic by using social media to spread their message. The post created a Facebook page, a website and Twitter account.

Post 24 leaders have said they want to find ways not only to bring back older members but to attract younger veterans — specifically soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Local military organizations say getting those younger veterans to join is crucial for their survival. Losing the local posts would be a loss for the community but more importantly for the veterans themselves.

VFW and American Legion posts try to help needy military veterans by offering gas money, paying an electric bill and donating money to homes for homeless veterans. They also host social gatherings for veterans and their families, such as dinners and poker tournaments, and raise money to maintain the buildings where they meet and have events.

We urge younger veterans to talk with representatives from the VFW, American Legion and other similar organizations. They can put you in touch with resources and provide a unique sounding board.

For generations, these organizations have served the needs of local veterans. We hope their work can continue for generations to come.

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