Traditional veterans groups in search of young recruits

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LEEDS, Iowa (KCAU9) — The American Legion and VFW have both been a part of the Siouxland community for more than a century but membership in these veteran groups has been declining for many years.

There are currently more than 12,000 American Legion posts nationwide with nearly 2 million members, but the Monahan-Nelson Post 64 in Leeds has dwindled to roughly 25 active members. One of those men, Steve Shults, a Vietnam veteran, says it’s a time of crisis for Legions everywhere.

“But this is not a localized problem. All over the country, traditional veterans groups are waning, they’re disappearing again just because of attrition. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way it is,” said Shults.

What Shults and other peers want to express is that younger veterans have a chance to take over the Post and mold it into what they want.

“Unless they want to be burdened with the task of reinventing the mousetrap because we’re all gone, the infrastructure is here. You can come in, modify it,” said Shults.

Shults says that’s exactly what he and fellow Vietnam War vets did when they joined, reshaping the Post into what they value and enjoy while keeping the same traditions such as attending military funerals and firing the three-volley salute to honor lost veterans. They also continue to sponsor Legion baseball and an annual speech contest, but fundraising events like an online silent auction happening this week are vital and necessary just to keep the facility’s lights on.

“American Legion is a hundred years old, we’d hate to see that century-long effort by all the previous veterans disappear.”

Post 64 is holding a recruiting event this Saturday from 8-12 a.m. and any veteran is invited to come and learn more about the Legion. Their families are also welcome to enjoy coffee, juice, and donuts.

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