As the newly elected state commander of the Florida Veterans of Foreign Wars, I have had the opportunity to begin my travels across the state to VFW Posts in communities large and small. I also have had the opportunity to speak to other veterans groups and community groups interested in veterans issues.
One of the most striking things I have encountered is the long-held perception of the Veterans of Foreign Wars: smoke-filled, darkly lit meeting halls where bingo and beer are more prevalent than community service and help for veterans. I am here to tell you that we are so much more.
The VFW, the nation’s oldest combat veterans organization, has changed with the times and welcomes and embraces a younger and more diverse veteran population.
It took a while, but we came to realize that today’s veterans want family-oriented, Wi-Fi-capable and smoke-free places to meet with fellow veterans. Today’s veterans are interested in legislative advocacy and community partnerships that leave a lasting mark and make the lives of fellow veterans, their families and the community better.
We want to become more diversified and more accurately reflect the ethnicities and genders of today’s population.
So, I encourage and urge Florida’s veterans to put aside your memories of your grandfather or grandmother’s VFW and come find out what we are now all about.
You will find many nonsmoking facilities, mixed gender and other memberships, and socially conscious veterans who want to make a difference.
If you want to tell or listen to a war story, fine. If you want to volunteer to cook Sunday dinner, fine. If you want to drink a beverage and share camaraderie with fellow veterans, fine. But if you also want to join the most elite veterans organization in the world and become part of a nationwide team trying to improve the lives of veterans, then that is fine, too.
Veterans helping veterans. Now that’s a good idea.
The writer is state commander of the Florida Veterans of Foreign Wars.