Listen: 100788.wav

A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from the VA Medical Center in St. Cloud for a pre-Veterans Day show. In this second hour of program, host Rachel Reabe and guests discuss veterans organizations, such as American Legion or VFW posts. The group talk about the impact of these organizations on the community, and their evolution over time.

Program includes audience commentary and listener call-in.

[NOTE: Audio includes news segment]

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

(00:00:13) Good afternoon, and Welcome to our special Main Street show on Americans veterans. I'm Rachel riebe. We're broadcasting live from the VA Medical Center in st. Cloud 80 years ago President Woodrow Wilson established the first Armistice Day noting that November 11th should be commemorated with Thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate. Peace our country with its 25 million veterans commemorates veterans day this Thursday when men and women returned home from the service a number of them joined veterans organizations for World War Two vets the local American Legion or VFW Post became an important place to share their experiences connect with other soldiers and transition back into civilian. Life now in their 70s and 80s World War Two veterans are looking to turn the leadership over to younger veterans, but those who fought in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf have not been as anxious to get involved as their fathers and grandfathers. We're going to talk about the challenges facing veterans organizations with our guest this afternoon. Dan Ludwick is an active member of the American Legion and served as their National commander in 1995 and 96. He is a World War Two veteran and lives in Red Wing. We also have John stomm who's with the veterans of foreign war. He was the national commander of that organization in 1985 and 1986. Mr. Stomm who now lives in Coon Rapids fought in the Korean War. Good afternoon gentlemen, welcome to Main Street. Thank you listeners. You can join our conversation this afternoon by calling us at one eight hundred five three 75252. The number again is 252 currently the VFW has two point 1 million members in this country and the American Legion has 2.8 million, but those numbers do reflect a decrease in membership gentlemen, how do you keep things going strong with a downward membership Trend Dan? Why don't you start with that? (00:02:21) Thank you Rachel. The first I got to correct you on one point while I'd be proud to be a World War Two veteran since I was born in 1946 that would have been difficult. If it makes it rather difficult for me to be a World War Two veteran 9 and I did serve in the Navy from 1964 to 1972 during the Vietnam war. (00:02:43) So thank you sir. Your friends would be wondering what I'm talking about here. Let's talk about those downward (00:02:48) numbers. Well, you know, it's there's business cycle in membership in the American Legion throughout its 80-year history and Yes, we are now in a somewhat of a downward trend. Is this something that can't be reversed? I don't believe that's the case at all it there are some things that will be necessary though. If we're going to reverse the trend as I deal with Desert Storm veterans in their teens and 20s and I speak to him. I find out that they really have the same values that I have and Veterans of the Korean War and and I believe our veterans of World War Two but they do come to those values may be from a different perspective because of the time and place where they grew up but they really have the same values and it's really up to the organizations and it's up to us and American Legion to to show these Young Veterans the merits and the value of belonging to our organization and In to give them good reasons, why what we offer is worthy of their time talent and treasure (00:04:07) John. Do you think that you have to do more selling? I'm sure when the World War II veterans came home in such huge numbers. They just showed up and join is it is it a little more challenging now where you're going out and bringing the message to Veterans trying to encourage them to join (00:04:24) a little bit. Yeah, I would say that. actually, I think that If you were to asked to get 10 younger veterans in here right now and be able to sit down with them and tell them the advantages of belonging to a veterans organization 7 out of 10 of them would agree with you whether they would join or not. I don't know. I think it goes back a long way that one of the reasons why our younger veterans did not join or do not join has been and and possibly were our own worst enemies that our image in our communities in many instances as not been good. I believe the Veterans of Foreign Wars American Legion, whatever organization it is has to bring our image back to a good image in their Community. I can speak from experience in Coon Rapids Minnesota where we have a Veterans of Foreign Wars post. It's Growing and in very active in the community and we've turned it around from losing membership to we're starting to grow Again by just being a good Community active organization and I could go on and on as to what we've done recently. (00:05:52) What's what was the bad image John though that they were there these were dark sort of smoky bars devoted to drinking and gambling. Is that is that the misconception that's a missed some people might have that's a misconception and you agree with that. Is that been a (00:06:05) problem? I agree with that completely and that certainly is it is a misconception. It's not to say that some of these things haven't taken places at Legions and vfw's but But don't gimme that image seems to stick with us while at the same time all the wonderful work that we've done in terms of community activities. And youth activities doesn't seem to get the same play and I guess that's just a fact of life. And yes, we do have to sell membership in a different way today than we did in in the late 40s, but you got to understand that in like an American Legion. The all time high was in 1947 had about three point two and a half million three point two five million members. So we're not actually all that much below that number today and even at that time when the spirit of patriotism was high in the the GI is come home from World War Two they had this desire to bond and and to enjoy each other's camaraderie. We still only had about 20% of the eligibles belong to the American (00:07:24) Legion. So it's a misnomer to think every single World War Two veteran came home and marched right down to the (00:07:29) veterans organization absolutely wasn't true then and it isn't true (00:07:32) today. So, how do you go out and sell it? Do you talk to Veterans? Do you take your message to them? If they're not going to come in then? Do you have to get out and somehow sell (00:07:44) it? That's that's primarily the way it works for a post to have a an active membership. Number one is they have to be they have to be a post where they're doing. Wonderful Community things number two is you have to have some folks that belong to that post or willing to seek out eligible veterans typically five percent of the eligible veterans will come to you the other 95% You need to go find you need to identify me need to determine that they're eligible. Don't become a member and then you need to sit down with them and explain. Plain to them all the benefits and reasons why it's good for them to belong and then you need to ask them to join and you'll do very well. Then you need to close the site. That's exactly (00:08:33) right. Our phone. Number one eight hundred five three 75252 if you'd like to join our conversation this afternoon with a question or a comment just feel free to calls and we do have a live audience. You can hear the silverware clattering. We have almost a full house this afternoon. We are in the patient's dining room of the VA Medical Center in st. Cloud and there are a lot of people in here eating lunch today and passing through we have Risa Helms our reporter in the audience and somebody has a question Risa. Go ahead. Hi. We have Fred he's a Vietnam era veteran and he has a comment about the unity of veterans. (00:09:09) You know, I'm sitting here listening to these guys on the panel. And I'm quite sure all of them are members of earlier War early than Vietnam earlier, maybe the Korean War and the issue I have to say is it's not about veterans down. It's not about the enrollment in the VFW American Legion to me. It's about Unity because of veterans would unify and stop so much dissensions and dissension amongst themselves. I don't think there's anything that the federal government or people can do to them veterans if they unify that's the power. That's the strength. I see Ronald Reagan when he was president what he did to the GI Bill and he's a veteran that that was an atrocity to the American Veteran. I really think that what he did was it was benign. It should not have happened. I see Young Veterans going in now. I mean you had Desert Storm look at the things that happen to them and we as veterans did not stand behind those boys when they came home and look what's happening to their children in them. They're dying faster than World War Two veterans they are dying and did we stand? Hand them. No the question is are we as veterans going to unify ourselves and stop disrespecting each other so that this country stops disrespecting (00:10:22) us. Thank you for your comment sir. Gentlemen, how do you unify veterans? How does that happen? Damn? What would you say to that are younger veteran? (00:10:32) Well, it's you know, it's always a challenge human nature is even though we're veterans were still part of the human race and and there's going to be different perspectives and different points of view. And at this point in time, there's a long tradition in history of several different major veteran organizations. And while we're not all in the wearing the same veteran cap, we primarily are working for the same end purposes and it's not normal that we are at odds with each other. We may we may emphasize different things and we may have somewhat of a different perspective between the American Legion or the VFW and in regard to healthcare or educational benefits, but we're really not at odds with each other. (00:11:34) John how would you respond to that do you think there's a lack of Unity on the part of veterans? (00:11:40) That's a tough one to answer because yeah, I would say there is not so much in the organization's but out there in The Boondocks so to speak. Where many veterans have the opinion that? Boy that the world owes them a living because they are a veteran other veterans feel they did their job and they just come home and went into the mainstream of life and so forth and they don't really care. They really don't care about veterans entitlements or anything else. They don't care if there's a VA hospital system. They don't care if there's a national cemetery. And so that's what really the problem the young man touched on her getting all the veterans together and say, you know, if all the veterans got together in this country and really back to say one candidate or one issue. There ain't nobody could stop us, but the trouble is out there. We just can't get them interested in many in many cases. (00:12:57) We talked about the American Legion and the VFW post as being in many cases the backbone of their communities. They've run all sorts of things over the years. We have done with come with us today in st. Cloud. He is the post Commander for Minnesota's first VFW Club located in the very small town of Glen Dorado East of st. Cloud the VFW Post. There was chartered in 1936 by World War One Veteran's good afternoon done. You say you have a hundred and six VFW members in Glen (00:13:30) Dorado. I'm a little wrong on it. My quartermaster told me of closer to 85. Now. (00:13:35) Your numbers are dropping your at 85 (00:13:37) now and I was wrong on a date our post was the first Charter posted state of Minnesota chartered and 1921 in August of nineteen (00:13:48) twenty one. So when you have a very small community, let's talk first about what your post has done for the community of Glenda radar how Central is that to (00:13:57) town in years past it was a driving force in our community. When when the poster first organized he met on the second floor of the General Store and that little community in 1936 to WPA. There was a building built that house the Glen Dorado Community Club. Later on, they could maintain a buildings that have you have dogs. Look at overnight then our post home this early (00:14:25) on so essentially you operate the community center for Glen (00:14:29) Dorado true. And that that building not only houses are posted serves a whole Community for family reunions or for the veterans from st. Cloud go over there for a picnic every year Township use it for annual meetings. The insurance company used for their it's a it's a focal point of that small (00:14:47) community. You told me you even take care of the water supply for (00:14:50) glad you used to be a criminal or a rather large finally screw me and although Central water why that little Community as out of the old Creamery well, and we were a major mover and when the creamy close to take that (00:15:03) over so what do you do with the money that you take and you told me through your bingo events that you maybe have twelve thousand dollars a year that you operate with what are some of the things that you (00:15:14) helped out of the bloody way that we did we did a lot of things are sad to say the last The half of those years the maintenance of the plan has been the focal point and it's a constant battle at one time that post was the first one over the top in the state of Minnesota with 200 plus members today. We're down to 85 so fighting the checkbook was the main problem. We have made some changes so we can get her attention back to helping veterans and our community recently. In fact two weeks ago turned our building over to the township of Glen Dorado who is now own it because we cannot afford to maintain it any longer. So the whole thing is going to complete cycle around and we fully realize that in the next 10 or 12 years in essence of unforeseen something happens. There'll be no blender 80428806 and venerate of Minnesota who will not be (00:16:09) there because you're mostly made up of Aging World War (00:16:12) II totally World War Two (00:16:13) vets. Have you had any success in going out and getting Vietnam Vets or Gulf War vets or because your To be so small. You don't have that big of an area to (00:16:22) drop through and because it's a rule post. The city of Princeton live 10 miles to the east in st. Cloud 18 miles to the west and they don't Join one Dorado. They join the other posts. So it's tough It's sad it's tough. Our days are numbered and we fully realize what the when that day comes of the ones that are left are either merge with st. Cloud or Princeton who has a very active e FW n Legion Post. So there's a future there for veterans that want to belong but it's hard. We have no Korean vets. We have no Vietnam that's in our (00:16:55) post. Johnson what do you say in this situation where you have a post made up solely of World War Two veterans and a post that has done tremendous good for the community. It's located in what kind of support you give or do you say well, maybe that's a good idea to get in with some of the other posts. (00:17:16) Well, actually, let me go back here. I belong to a post. Yes is a good percentage of World War II veterans, but we also got a lot of Korean War veterans who get a lot of Vietnam veterans and this year our most commanders a Desert Storm veteran and so we've attracted the younger veterans, but I'm in a much larger Community. I would say that Yes, it's inevitable. Someday. The Glen Dorado post will probably have to fold its doors. You can have a post in the community without having a building. However, I can see where it's kind of tough. That way what's happened in many of our communities or would many of our posts in the rural communities. They've merged with another post. So for instance if you wanted to merge it prints and you'd always be able to do that or with east side or the big (00:18:14) sink low not unlike School consolidations in rural (00:18:17) communities. Well, yeah, I guess you could call it that but it's a merger of the two poles and it happens. That's a reality in in Rural America room Rural America and certainly in rural Minnesota school districts are consolidating and shopping is becoming regionalized. (00:18:38) So we shouldn't be surprised that the same things happening to (00:18:40) veterans are in. There are a lot of rural Farm communities in Minnesota that are much smaller today than they were 10 15 years ago and Main Street used to be full of thriving businesses that are basically closed today and three and four communities of Consolidated into one school district and the population is is diminishing and when a farmer retires or passes away instead of his son or his grandson taking over the farm, it's his neighbor buying the farm and in those kind of communities unless there is some Really strange change in Direction. The reality is down the road that those Legions and VFW Post will close it when their time (00:19:26) comes we've talked about Glenn Dorado, but that is not to say that every rural community is struggling with a dying membership. That's not true. We have Joe Kramer on the phone with us this afternoon from Paynesville. He's an active member of their American Legion Post which last week opened a brand-new half million dollar facility. Mr. Kramer, how have you managed to keep things going strong in Paynesville? (00:19:51) Well, we've got a good membership and a lot of community support. That's number one, and we've been Have another nonprofit organizations using our facility at our old place which was a two-story building and everyone has the same problem with membership getting olding older and for the steps, and we also have Bingo land. And that clientele is on the older side too. So and with the community support, we went out for pledges with to the business place and a good response and I'm from our membership. We received about 40 percent of the membership responded. (00:20:33) Mr. Kramer the town of Paynesville population of about 2,200 and you have you told me 262 members. Let's talk about some of the ways that you have helped develop that Community Support by the kinds of activities that you're doing at your post. How do you support the community in your American Legion (00:20:55) through the school through the school system. We paid total price on Legion Baseball, which is American Legion project and school patrol and we have we offer for scholarships among the four $500 scholarship and we had little lost interest here two years ago on boy. Stator so we came up with whoever's boys Theater which are juniors in high school. We offer them a $500 scholarship when they graduate from high school. So and also we've got the Dare program and lots of other probably other projects that like the year of 1998. We don't need approximately 28,000 dollars to the school district. And right now I with the new building going on and everything. We have to get back on track and remembered our veterans are number one to take care of them and we've been little axed and that we've been concentrating so heavy on their (00:21:54) buildings. And so you do everything in Paynesville, you told me that you paid for the new scoreboard at the athletic field. So you've been very involved with the community of Paynesville be hurting if you closed down. (00:22:09) Yes, I definitely I think with the budget cuts in the school districts and stuff to depend on us and well, they've got the faculty and members school board members and everybody supports us a hundred percent and also the municipality which I we piece of property we had that's developed the city of painful owned it and we just picked it up for a we talked to him about it. We figure well if we pick up the assessments do on it and they decided to do that and give us a piece of property to put it back and I'll pay payroll. Oh, that's we've been helping a city itself besides school, too. (00:22:50) We've been talking to Joe Kramer. He is a member of the American Legion Post in Paynesville just opened a brand-new building Paynesville. Thank you, sir. You're listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast from the VA Medical Center in st. Cloud. I'm Rachel riebe. We're talking about veterans in the organization's they've established in towns Across America almost every Minnesota Community has an American Legion or VFW Post many towns have both our guests are Daniel Ludwig of the American Legion Johnston with the veterans of foreign war mpr's Main Street radio coverage of rural issues is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening communities through grant-making leadership training and convening. We (00:23:32) invite you know, your time is (00:23:33) valuable. We invite you to visit the Main Street website. You can go to MP r dot o-- r-- g-- you'll be able to hear this broadcast as well. As other Main Street reports will be back with more of Main Street and our conversation about veterans after news and weather. (00:23:50) We know your time is valuable to you. So we want to make our upcoming membership drive just as efficient and productive as possible our goal for this three-day Drive is to raise the same amount of money in less time the dry begins Wednesday your membership in Minnesota Public Radio brings you the (00:24:05) program's you enjoy and (00:24:07) depend on rise to the challenge make your pledge today on our website at MP r dot org, and thank (00:24:14) you. Good afternoon. It's 12:30. I'm Mary Ann Sullivan with the latest from the Minnesota Public Radio Newsroom. Some big changes could be in the offing in the way hmos do business UnitedHealth Group confirms that it will soon give doctors the final say on what care is medically necessary UnitedHealth is the nation's second largest HMO covers more than 14. Million patients at least 46 people are missing after an avalanche swept down a Mountainside and buried several dozen homes in Peru today. The slide may have been caused by volcanic activity civil defense team is investigating the Reverend Jesse Jackson is meeting with Illinois, governor, George Ryan and school officials indicator in an effort to re-enroll seven black students who were expelled for a fight. All the public high schools were closed in the city today to avoid any trouble florida-based AutoNation today said it will relocate the Edina headquarters of National Car Rental to Florida that will mean a loss of about 400 Minnesota jobs. The move is part of our donations reversal of its earlier plan to move the headquarters for its carbonyl group to Edina state auditor. Judy Dutcher is demanding an apology from the executive director of the Minnesota Republican party. She says Tony satton should apologize for what she calls his tacit support for the hateful views of a GOP endorsed Minneapolis School Board candidate. No immediate comment from Sudden Dallas running back Emmitt. Smith will be asked to carry. Big load tonight against the Vikings on Monday Night Football with wine out Michael Irvin injured Dallas is best chance to beat Minnesota is to keep the Vikings eruptive offense off. The field game time in Minneapolis is eight o'clock records will probably be broken across Minnesota today as we will see sunny and unseasonably warm weather highs from near 60 in the Northeast reaching possibly 80 in Southwestern Minnesota partly cloudy tonight lows from the mid 30s in the North near 50 in the Southeast not quite as warm tomorrow. We'll see mid-50s in the north and 70s in the Southeastern part of the state sunny and 69 this hour in Rochester cloudy 61, and st. Cloud Duluth is mostly sunny and 64 degrees 65 and partly sunny in International Falls 60 and Fargo 72 degrees and sunny this hour in Sioux Falls and in the Twin Cities, it's partly sunny and 66 degrees. That's the latest from The Newsroom. I'm Mary Ann Sullivan. Welcome back to this Main Street special on Minnesota veterans. I'm Rachel rebe were broadcasting from the VA Medical Center in st. Cloud where they expect to see a record number of patients this year some 11,000 that's one indication that veterans are getting older over a thousand World War Two veterans die every day in this country the organization's these veterans have established are facing their own challenge as the leadership ages American Legion and VFW posts are looking for younger veterans to come in and take over my guest this afternoon John stomm with the veterans of foreign war and Dan Ludwig with the American Legion. We've also been joined by Clay King. He is the director of mental health programs at the VA Medical Center in st. Cloud and he is counseled Veterans for some 15 years Welcome to our program. Mr. King. Our phone lines are open for your questions and comments. You can call us at one eight hundred five three seven 52 52 and we have lots of phone callers waiting for their opportunity. We're going now to Minneapolis where Thomas is standing by. Good afternoon Thomas. Welcome to Main (00:27:36) Street. Good afternoon. Thank you for taking my call Rachel. Good afternoon, Dan, John and Clay my comment is the reason that the organizations are failing. It's the same reason. I'm a Vietnam vet. My dad was a World War Two and Korean vets and I couldn't skip the Canada or he'd have killed me. And when I was in Vietnam, I realized you could never Bond or get close to anybody. There was no unification because when we went over words and World War II they were there for a long time and people Bond it in Vietnam. My experience was those guys are going home. There was nobody to show me how to fight this war. They were going home to have fun. I thought and there was no decompression period you know, it's like a diver, you know, if you go so far you got to have time to decompress. Well, I was walking into something that I didn't understand and I think a lot of veterans problem with the VA system. Today and with the organization's is they can't recruit people because they have them decompressed yet and nobody showed them the way and then what they showed them I go to the VFW I go to the American Legion and I listened to the old guys talk about their experience while they don't have a clue what my experience was. Anyway, that's my comment. (00:29:00) Thank you, Dan. Why don't you address that you are a Vietnam veteran. Do you agree with that that it's difficult for you and your colleagues other Vietnam veterans to fit in (00:29:13) Rachel and Thomas. Let me just say I agree with your perspective to a very large extent certainly was a different war in a different experience instead of going over his complete units as you indicated soldiers went over for a year at a time and they went over individually almost and came back that way and when when you came back to this country, it was a different mindset than a different experience coming home than it was. What I believe it was in 1945. And but the reality is Thomas that we're all veterans and whatever our time and place was to defend Freedom. We we did our duty. And ideally you should be able to go to your local VFW and American Legion and find folks who are experienced the same thing you did. And even if they didn't they should be sympathetic to listening to your situation and and things that you experienced. I mean that's that's the whole idea of our bonding together to look out for each other. Now, there may be some cases where when you go into a specific post because of the individuals that are in in the building that they that you get there that it maybe didn't come out quite as good as it should have but that's really a real Crux of why members and American Legion and VFW of bonded together (00:30:57) clicking. You've counseled veterans. Does it surprise you to hear this man? Call up our first question out from Vietnam saying I don't feel welcome there. (00:31:06) No, it doesn't I've heard that reaction to from veterans often. I think that Dan's responses is a very good response. I think that Dan has a deep understanding of that. I came I was thinking about the word failing and I see the veterans organizations helping the veterans at this facility in a number of different ways. So my perception isn't that the veterans organizations are failing at all. I think that with this program with efforts that they're making to reach out to younger veterans, I think that they have a bright future. (00:31:47) Let's talk about the Vietnam veteran when you and I spoke before we went on the air you talked about Vietnam Vets being loners not joiners in some (00:31:57) sense. When we talked I mentioned that the patients that I treat or a subset of Vietnam veterans to people that come to st. Cloud to see us have serious post-traumatic stress issues from all wars not just Vietnam, but from Korea in World War II and part of the diagnosis is wanting to be isolated socially from people. I think the caller's perception of coming back from Vietnam as an individual rather than a group and coming into a society that unfortunately and in a misguided way blamed the individual Soldier coming back for a policy. That was maybe not as good as it could have been is one of the reasons that many of the veterans I work with younger veterans. Do not join organizations. I think the other thing that you have to take into account Count is that when a veterans organization started in the 30s 20s 30s 40s and 50s in small town America. There was not a lot of competition for time the way there is now most families have both spouses working. It's very difficult to become involved in any type of organization nowadays because of the different competing agendas. That one has to meet to keep your family and children going on. (00:33:33) So it's a different time. It's not Ward Cleaver stopping at the American Legion because June was home making (00:33:39) dinner June was home making dinner. We weren't afraid of having children walking back between schools and soccer games there wasn't TV and computers and the internet there was there was radio so times people had more time. Do that, but I think the caller's the caller's feeling is shared by many veterans that were in that war and by Korean veterans (00:34:08) also we go now to Bob who's standing by in Cottage Grove. Good afternoon, Bob. Welcome to Main (00:34:13) Street. Thank you. I wanted to make a comment about having a problem with the VFW and the American Legion trying to get people to join seems to me that I have I've come from a long military family, you know, my granddad my dad and I was in Korean my daughter was in nam in the gulf and her husband also was in both and when they went to join they tried to join up and they say well sorry we can't accept your daughter because she's female shall have to join the axillary and you know, that seems to me that the services today have at least 15 to 20 percent female and I think they're losing out on something you're living in the past and one way saying that females aren't veterans. I'd like some This place (00:34:58) question John. Do you want to start with that one? What about women coming in? As full members of the Legion of the VFW (00:35:04) women now can come in as full members of either (00:35:08) organization. And when did that change was that recently or (00:35:12) know it changed back in 1977-78 when the resolution while in our organization the VFW, I know the American Legion, they've always been able to be in there and it was back in 1977-78. It became a quite an issue and I remember working on the resolution here in the department of Minnesota as chairman of that committee, and we pushed it through that the women would be eligible and could come into the Veterans of Foreign Wars and we went to I believe it was Dallas Texas International Convention and the resolution was voted on and it well it wasn't a unanimous vote but it was overwhelmingly in support of allowing the To join the Veterans of Foreign Wars and since then we've had an awful lot of good women taking hold of the organization. They've been excellent post commanders. They've been excellent District commanders. We've had a two or three to State commanders and eventually we will have a national Commander. That's a woman and fine. We're happy with that and again going back to one of the caller's stated. He didn't really feel welcome in the post. Yes. I can I've heard these stories and I'm not going to say it never existed. Yes, it did exist. Unfortunately, and and I guess I can empathize with them as a Korean veteran. I came home alone. Nobody welcome me home. However, I came out of it. Okay? No, it didn't bother me, but No, what if bothered a lot of our younger veterans and what really was the problem is that their peers were not accepting them back. They were having a lot of problems with will say the guy that went to Canada or the guy that tore up his draft card and so forth making fun of them actually because they serve their country in the in in the armed forces and this hurt this hurt real (00:37:23) bad and yet the VFW or the American Legion Post should have been a Haven for some of these people coming back and some say no you guys were all supporting President Richard Nixon and that wasn't our agenda. So we had a clash from the moment. We walked in the door. Would you agree to some of that kind of (00:37:40) difficulty? I would agree to a point but not in all cases. I could say that the Vietnam veteran and my post was accepted and accepted and we wanted them and believe me we made him (00:37:53) feel welcome. And that must have been true when your post as well damn because you came back from Vietnam and got it. (00:37:58) Aunt Rachel that's very true in my own posts and when I first got involved in my poster was still a lot of World War One Veteran's that were active and and I can truthfully say that I was well received as we're any other Vietnam veterans, I won't want it to be come a part of it and getting back to Bob's remark. Let me just say that in the American Legion since our Inception in 1919. We've always welcomed women veterans. They had the right as to belong the American Legion before they had the right to vote in this country and I'm proud to say that in my own Community or Red Wing Minnesota today that we have a 35 year old female post Commander that's doing just one whale of a job (00:38:37) we're going now to RJ who's standing by in st. Cloud. Good afternoon RJ. Welcome to Main Street. (00:38:42) Thanks for taking my call. My wife and I are college graduates were professional people were also both veterans. We wait each year for the the American Legion or the VFW to relax their membership requirements. We both have served overseas. We've Sister serve Stateside but not during periods of eligibility for either organization and we're not sold on something called Amvets. We monitor the annual conventions of both of these organizations follow you what you're doing on the on your web pages no changes. No nothing every year. It seems to be soundly defeated about opening up the eligibility, aren't we all veterans or does that date and a ribbon or P that piece of cloth separate us? (00:39:26) That's a good question is especially as we see veterans organizations struggling to attract new members. What about the eligible you damn? (00:39:34) Well RJ, that's that that's a tough question that you posed. The American Legion was founded in 1919 at the end of World War 1 by World War One Veteran's they had just fought the war to end all wars. And the only members were going to be Doughboys of world war one. It was a wartime era veterans organization. They didn't invite Civil War veterans or any other veterans from previous times. Join the American Legion, but as we all know there's been many conflicts since and now the American Legion has an 80-year history being a wartime era veterans organization and I can assure you there's nothing that causes us to peel the paint more at National Convention debate and eligibility (00:40:17) change. Do you see that changing at some point Dan are the winds blowing in that (00:40:21) direction? It's I do believe it'll happen but I don't think it's going to happen real soon. We've had the eligibility now since August 2nd of 1994 Desert Storm everybody on active duty today in anybody that served one or more days active since that date are eligible to belong and the mindset to the Old Guard is is to keep it the way it is and there's other factors that are involved in this are federal Charter is set up this way. Our tax exempt status is tied into all this there's a lot of need to change a number of other thing. It's not as easy as it may appear, (00:40:54) but some of your organization's do open their doors to Sons Daughters of veterans do you not (00:41:00) yes we do. But then you know for for a veteran who served in his own right? Honorably, it's not it's not the same thing and I can appreciate that perspective from their part. (00:41:13) John any comment about (00:41:14) that? Well, the eligibility requirements are really set by the Department of Defense. For our organization. However, they're constantly changing. I see our eligibility. I would like to know the caller's service time if he did serve overseas where and so forth. In fact, I would advise him just go down to the local post and check out the eligibility requirements and he may be pleasantly surprised. (00:41:49) So we have a live audience here at the VA Medical Center were set up in the patient's dining room a reporter maresa Helms is in the audience could have to do maresa. Hi Rachel Joe schirmer's he's a Korean War veteran. He has a (00:42:01) comment. Okay. My comment is a when I come back from Korea in 1950 to I immediately joined our polls now help started ours in 1953 and then shortly I've been active since then on National and state and local and District level. My point right now is that two years ago. I signed up a hundred and forty new life life members. Some of them had already belong but some of them weren't life and I think that's the way to go when you get them interested and then signed him up for life right off of the bat. The point is that you know, when I was young and my wife would take care of my seven kids, we could be active and doing things in the organization. But today men and women are both working and if you get after him Allah and stay with him for four time being they will join the organization, but I find now there's so many that we're looking for some new ones to join the East Side VFW, but we can't find any loose names around to get because we lost 38 last year by death, but I got some younger ones. I signed up some for life that are Desert Storm and from Vietnam so we have about Out of our membership. We only have about 50 out of 709 that aren't life members, but I think that's the way to go and we have to work with the young people and if you go like I spent maybe two tree four hours a night that somebody's house to try to get him to join then if you get them you can get them talking for life right away. You have them because people are busy these days and man and wife are both working and that makes it tough for him to become active because if you become a post Commander active in the post on the membership level ending you have to be there a couple two three days a week to get the job done to do to our community service in our polls through our americanism to do our VOD to do our huge scholarship and different programs that we have established. Thank you very much. (00:43:58) Thank you for your comments or Maurice another question. Yeah, a member of the audience had this comment and question with the Advent of cable TV the Internet satellite TV Etc the vets and people in general do not want or need the same kind of social context that the World War Two vets wanted what new ideas. Do you have to make That's organizations attractive to new membership. And if you could be specific, that's the question Daniel must start with that one. (00:44:26) Well, that's that's a challenge for all of us. (00:44:29) That's the big question this (00:44:30) afternoon. It certainly is certainly in communities where there's a population base. That is the absolute Crux of the van situation. And and and do I have some wonderful magic formula that I can share specifically with you here today, and I think not I'm 53 years old. Can I think in the same from the same perspective as somebody that's 25. I can't really what needs to happen in each community. No matter where you go is the local leadership in the in the legions and the VFW is they need to sit down and they need to talk to members from World War II from Korea from Vietnam Grenada Panama Lebanon Desert Storm, but particularly concentrating on the veterans that are on the younger end of the spectrum and do a round robin discussion and find out what it is that they need and what they want in other words if we're going to be successful in the New Millennium. We're going to have to address The concerns in the needs of the veterans that were serving. And the only way you can do that is to sit down and talk to those veterans. They'll provide those answers to each of us and it and I'm here to say that that answer isn't the same in every Community each Community will have some things that are unique to that community and that's why the National Organization or the state organization. I don't believe can develop some wonderful plan that we can all apply in no matter what community we live in it won't it just won't work (00:46:14) that way. Did I find it interesting that you're still recruiting World War Two veterans that it's not like they must sign up the minute. They get home or forget about it. My father lives in Ely. He joined the American Legion this summer 50 years after he came home from Okinawa. I asked him. What? Why did you join the summer? He said somebody asked (00:46:35) me that's the as a common answer and I know (00:46:37) John you said that you didn't join right when you got home either. (00:46:41) No, I didn't know I was I think about three or four years after. Ray oh gosh, it was over there in 1957. I got out in 1953. So that was in 1957-58 when I was finally asked to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I guess I wanted to be before that but nobody ever asked me until the opportunity came along somebody came down the street and I was out raking the yard and they asked me if I wanted to join and I joined and I've been active (00:47:09) ever since very active we go back to our phones Steve the executive director of Minnesota veterans homes is on the phone. Good afternoon Steve. (00:47:17) Good afternoon, Rachel. Thank you for taking my call. I just want to make a brief comment about the impact that the service organizations have on the five homes that we have in the state of Minnesota over the last fiscal year through donations and through donated hours. The service organizations gave us over 1.1 million dollars it and that also Foods 60,000 hours of volunteer time I can tell you that it's through the efforts of the service organizations that make a difference to the quality of services that we provide in the quality of life that the our patients have in our (00:48:01) homes. Thank you so much for your call. So again veterans organizations responsible for all sorts of things. And this is perhaps clay would you say this is one of the things that we don't talk about as much is the huge service that they provide for (00:48:16) veterans that's very accurate. The service organizations are really vital to the operations of all VA medical centers through their donation of funds through their donation of volunteer hours many of the services that we provide here could not be accomplished without the service organizations. And I think that is really one of the biggest selling points for joining us service organization along with this is the these are the groups that are going to enable veterans to keep the benefits. They already have into the future as we go through shrinking budgets and different priorities in the Congressional agenda. (00:48:59) And remember when we talked about veterans organizations, we are know me In saying that the VFW and the American Legion are the only veterans organizations. There are other very strong very powerful very hardworking veterans organizations. In addition to these two we go now to Pam who is standing by in st. Paul. Good afternoon Pam. Welcome to Main Street. Good afternoon. I was calling about the one guy who made the comment of how (00:49:27) all the veterans organizations should really unites all you know, World War II on down to everybody who's in been involved with anything and I haven't heard the Southeast Asian vets mentioned at all. And I think they're a part of this whole ball of wax to and I'd like to encourage people to recognize veterans on Veterans Day, you know take somebody to launch or buy him breakfast stir cook a nice dinner, you know don't go to the 20% off sales. That's a bunch of baloney. It's Veterans Day and and we should recognize it and let that's know that we really do appreciate the sacrifices that they have made we don't have to agree with the wars, but we can support our (00:50:11) vets. Thanks so much for your call Pam. We have time for one more call we go to Sandy in Plymouth. Good afternoon, Sandy. My father was a World War Two veteran and he served in the European theater. And he was a member of the American Legion in uh in Sauk Rapids when he came home and we have been the direct beneficiary of the program's the American Legion sponsors on namely my brother was Boy stator when he was a junior in high school. I was girl stator sponsored by the American Legion auxiliary. My daughter was girl stator when she was a junior and my daughter-in-law was a girl stator and I'm sure the learning experience about government was excellent offered through those programs. So I just want to say a thank you to them for offering them that we had an opportunity to take part in them. And I appreciate the program today as we're talking about our veterans and the programs. Thanks so much for calling today clay one final question. We talked about war being a defining moment for World War Two veterans, even though they might have served Justice. Year or two or three they were so young. They were so impressionable that they still stand solidly would identify themselves first and foremost as a veteran And yet when you and I were talking you said war is a defining moment for everybody for all veterans. (00:51:34) I think that's accurate. I think when you go into Harm's Way, it's a defining moment. I don't think there's a distinguish between World War II Korea Vietnam Persian Gulf Grenada Panama the conflicts the wars go on and on but once you face combat, I think it is a moment that you'll remember the rest of your (00:51:56) life. So there are many commonalities for all (00:52:00) veterans many many things in common. (00:52:03) Jeonse Tom Clay King Daniel Ludwig. Thank you for being with us today. This special Main Street radio program is a production of Minnesota Public Radio. Our Engineers are Cliff Bentley and Nick cariocas in st. Cloud Randy. Johnson in st. Paul our producer is care a fig and chucai producer maresa Helms executive producer Kate Smith. We'd like to thank Rose besner in the staff of the VA Medical Center for making this broadcast from st. Cloud possible. We invite you to visit the Main Street website go to you'll be able to hear this broadcast as well as other Main Street reports the address again MP r dot org, mpr's Main Street radio coverage of rural issues is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening communities through grant-making leadership training and convening Minnesota public radio's Main Street team consists of twelve reporters at MPR bureaus across Minnesota. I'm Rachel rebe.


Digitization made possible by the State of Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, approved by voters in 2008.

This Story Appears in the Following Collections

Views and opinions expressed in the content do not represent the opinions of APMG. APMG is not responsible for objectionable content and language represented on the site. Please use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report a piece of content. Thank you.

Transcriptions provided are machine generated, and while APMG makes the best effort for accuracy, mistakes will happen. Please excuse these errors and use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report an error. Thank you.

< path d="M23.5-64c0 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.2 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.3-0.1 0.4 -0.2 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.3 0 0 0 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.1 0 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.2 0 0.4-0.1 0.5-0.1 0.2 0 0.4 0 0.6-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.1-0.3 0.3-0.5 0.1-0.1 0.3 0 0.4-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.3-0.3 0.4-0.5 0-0.1 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.3 0-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.2 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.3 0-0.2 0-0.4-0.1-0.5 -0.4-0.7-1.2-0.9-2-0.8 -0.2 0-0.3 0.1-0.4 0.2 -0.2 0.1-0.1 0.2-0.3 0.2 -0.1 0-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2C23.5-64 23.5-64.1 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64"/>