Younger Vets Are on a Mission to Change the American Legion from Within

INDIANAPOLIS — Older men sporting ball caps, and perhaps leather-patched vests, sit in a dark bar, smoke wafting about while they talk about their war days. It’s a stereotypical image associated with American Legion posts: a place to retreat and share kinship with men who became close because they stood side by side in conflicts like the Vietnam War, or met in veteran outreach programs. But it’s not the image the next generation of vets wants people to think of. As they attempt to change the image of the nearly two-million-member organization, younger veterans say it’s time to go back to a grassroots campaign of family-oriented programs and community service. Related: New Law Will Allow Thousands More Veterans to Join American Legion Two Post-9/11 vets who spoke with Military.com during the American Legion’s 101st National Convention at the end of August said the organization, like the military itself, must shift and offer more personalized, tailored positions that give prospective members — or those thinking of leaving the Legion — a sense of purpose and belonging. “At some point in time, the American Legion … and other legacy service organizations, switched from being a community-centered focal point to being an exclusive social club. And that is switching back,” said Derric Grimes, an Army veteran and a member of the post in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. Military.com sat down with Grimes and Desiree “Dez” Guerra, a member of Department of Colorado District 7, during the convention. The two say they’ve seen change gradually taking place: Post-9/11 vets find themselves more closely aligned to the Legion’s founders, the World War I-era service members who were on a mission to give back to communities, build partnerships with local and state organizations and foster programs geared toward family events. While the Legion has always maintained […]

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