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Veterans' organizations need younger members to survive

February 28, 2012

Photo by Colin Deppen - Pictured are Leo Rigard, left, and Leo Simbeck, right, both Purple Heart recipients, along with Tom Price, sergeant with the St. Marys Servicemen's Burial Detail at the group's annual banquet. Also pictured is banquet attendee Monica Radkowski of St. Marys. Veterans' groups are seeing a decrease in active membership with the passing of long-time members and looking to younger veterans, like those of the War on Terror, to take up the mantle for the organizations.

As more servicemen and women return home with the de-escalation of the War on Terror, veterans' organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), with their ever-diminishing ranks, see the younger generation as the last hope and their membership as vital to the longevity and even the existence of these organizations.
As of the latest U.S. Census, nine million veterans were 65 years of age and older, with only 1.9 million younger than 35 years old. In 2009, the average age of World War II veterans was 86 years old. Effects from exposure to the chemical Agent Orange continues to claim the lives of Vietnam veterans. This leaves veterans' organizations with a void to fill as older members are laid to rest and younger members fail to join.

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