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Those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan gravitate toward modern organizations

By Jacqueline Klimas - The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kate Hoit served eight years in the Army Reserves, including a tour in Iraq, but when she tried to join her local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, someone asked whether she needed an application for military spouses instead.

Now, Ms. Hoit said, she will never join the VFW or the American Legion. She said the organizations are unwelcoming and out of touch with the needs of post-Sept. 11 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I'm not going to go the VFW or the Legion and drink and smoke cigarettes," she said. "I want to be out in my community."

Her complaint is echoed by other veterans of the war on terrorism, who see the venerable veterans groups as fraternities of older men from previous wars. The new generation of veterans instead is gravitating toward groups organized around activities such as running or volunteering, and groups that allow nonmilitary members to take part as well.

Younger veterans say the traditional organizations differ in many ways from groups that appeal to them, including the types of advocacy they do and their ways of communication — "snail mail" versus email.

Officials from the Legion and VFW say they are trying to maintain the valuable clout they have built on Capitol Hill and need support to help veterans navigate the bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs — benefits that the more modern groups don't provide.

It's a challenge for the traditional veterans organizations, who agree they need to change to stay relevant.

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