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American Legions everywhere are suffering from lack of young and new recruits.

This generation gap has challenged the organization nationally, and some posts are thinking progressively about how to attract younger members, according to VFW State Quartermaster Bruce Dolan.

“The younger members have different interests than us older guys do,” he said. “They want to do stuff and get out in the community and participate in things.”

An even bigger challenge is building mutual respect and understanding between the generations, according to an article at the dailypress.com. The opportunity for younger and older veterans to socialize and get to know each other is crucial and necessary to keep the American Legions and VHFs up and running, according the article.

Fifty three-year-old veteran Gerald Martinez knows what it’s like to get lost in the bottle, but he’s sober now and turns to other veterans to find the support he needs, according to an article at dailypress.com As one of the youngest active members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, he’s trying to connect with other younger veterans to encourage them to join.

“We’ve got each other to talk to, kind of like a support group. A lot of vets come back and have nobody that can understand what they’ve been through,” Martinez said. “One of the vets in particular I’m kind of concerned about, he’s hitting the bottle pretty hard… I’d like to catch these guys before they turn to that.”

Post 4265 is trying something unusual to recruit young members. They will be opening their doors to all veterans the second Saturday of every month for free coffee and doughnuts.

Marine Corps veteran Erik Luker joined The American Legion Post 238 after his second combat tour. He has joined the effort to bring in the newest generation of veterans.

“When our post was facing closure, I knew that this was a resource we couldn’t let go — and not just for myself,” he said. Luker organized fundraisers to renovate the post. After that the focus was on recruiting new members. “Young kids in their 20s and early 30s didn’t want to come to a place that’s run down.”

The post now has a projector and several TVs in the club area. It has a family-friendly hall. A digital keypad was placed on the door, replacing the traditional door lock, according to the article, A modernized Legion post for the 9/11 generation.

“This isn’t my grandfather’s American Legion. It still has the same opportunities that my grandfather’s Legion set up for me. It still has all of the benefits that my grandfather has fought for and spent all his time, effort and energy to make sure it was there for me. But it’s time that someone takes those reins on. Young guys need to grab those reins,” said Bob Lapore, 38-year old Marine veteran.

“It’s very important,” said Daniel Rosado, 31. “(In the military) you build a bond with certain people. You come back here in the civilian world … and not a lot of civilians understand military ways. It’s always good to have some (former) military personnel around you because they know how we speak, how we are.”

Veterans Day should be a celebration, Luker said. “Hanging out on Veteran’s Day has an exponential effect. Once you get guys in here going, ‘This is a good time,’ those are the type of things they want to be a part of.”

One new recruitment tool is an app, according to the American Legion site. Members are able to sign up veterans on the spot.

Greg Rowley, Deputy Adjutant Post 27, said in the Utah department newsletter that ignoring the experiences, thoughts and ideals shared by these younger veterans is not appropriate. “In fact, it was those shared experiences that led to the creation of this organization almost 100 years ago.”

Many of the older veterans understand the critical role that these organizations play and fear that younger vets are not getting the camaraderie and support they need.

“We are starting to get some younger members, but we need to reach the new veterans,” said Ken Topham, second vice of the local American Legion.

Even though The American Legion has an international presence, it is very much a community-based service organization. The American Legion is one of the nation’s largest supporters of Scouting, and the largest single donor organization of blood to the American Red Cross, according to information at the American Legion website.

Closer to home, Russ Finlinson worries that the day will come when there won’t be enough members to carry on. “I have never met a more patriotic group of older gentlemen,” he said. “They will stand with rifles and flags until they can’t stand anymore.”

Finlinson said that the local post has so much to offer the community. Funerals, color guard ceremonies for various events, and the retirement of the flag ceremonies are a few events that The Legion carries out.

“We really do need help on Memorial Day,” Finlinson said. “Young veterans can come participate in the military rites we perform and feel a great deal of patriotism through them.”

All veterans and their partners are invited to a free dinner on Veterans Day, November 11. In Delta the dinner will be held at R.J. Law Community Center at 6 p.m. Fillmore’s dinner is at the Legion Hall from 5:30-7:30 p.m.