3 Reasons You Should Join a Veteran Service
This articles was taken from a VFW newsletter, but it applies to all the Veteran’s Service Organizations. In the near future, older Veterans will be gone and younger Veterans are not joining, and the programs we support will be in jeopardy. Who will be there to perform military rites, color guards for sporting events and parades, and making sure the benefits of all Veterans are protected and preserves on the Government level? Encourage everyone you know that qualifies to belong to a VSO or an Auxiliary, or Sons. Submitted by Mary Steinbach, Membership Chair, AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary Post #79
It took me a long time to join a veteran
service organization. To be honest, before I joined one, I didn’t fully
understand the value of being part of these groups. You may have similar
reasons for not joining: You may think they aren’t relevant to you, or maybe
you think you won’t be welcome. Or that you have to wait until you leave active
duty to join. Or maybe you simply picture a bunch of old guys in funny hats
sitting around drinking and smoking in a dark and dingy bar.
Whatever reason you may have for not getting
involved with a VSO, let me give you three reasons why I think you should
1. You get the
opportunity to make an impact.
Many who have served say that one thing they
enjoyed was being part of something greater than themselves. VSOs can give you
While almost all VSOs are active in their communities,
many are also active on the national stage, developing and advancing policies
and laws that improve services and benefits that millions of service members,
veterans, their families and survivors receive. They testify to Congress and
walk the halls of the Pentagon, taking the concerns and complaints of those who
serve and have served to the ears of the very individuals who can address them.
(And, if you are still serving, saying things you and your leadership may not
be allowed to say.)
Many VSOs offer opportunities for leadership
positions at the local, state, regional, and national levels, giving their
members the opportunity to be actively involved in the advocacy process. The
Forever GI Bill, troop pay raises, correcting 12304b benefit discrepancies for
Guard and Reserve mobilizations, declassification of toxic exposure-related
documents, and Department of Veterans Affairs accountability are just a few of
the legislative and policy areas VSOs have fought in the last year alone.
2. It’s where your battle
buddies hang out.
At its heart, a VSO is a military alumni
network. They are places where those who don the uniform can come together and
enjoy one of the things they enjoyed most about serving: the people.
The mission and composition of VSOs vary: Some
require service overseas, others are comprised of disabled or wounded veterans,
still others may focus on minority groups or even a shared religion. But all of
them are built around bringing together individuals with a common background in
a place where they can share camaraderie and develop relationships.
Social opportunities may include regular local
meetings, national conventions, annual retreats, monthly dinners or drink
meetups, community service projects, business or employer networking events,
movie previews, travel opportunities, group workouts, and even formal balls and
galas. Whether you are looking for a lead on a job, social support after
relocating to a new town, advice for what to expect when you transition off
active duty, a place to do yoga, or even just a place to tell a story without
having to explain the acronyms-there’s a VSO for that.
3. They have access to
resources and information.
One of the advantages of an alumni network is
that those who have gone before are willing to reach back and assist the next
generation. VSOs are no different: Philanthropy and service are key tenets of
VSOs and they offer a variety of different kinds of programs and assistance,
often for the both the veteran and his/her family, to include surviving
dependents. Services often include scholarships and fellowships, financial need
grants, employment and education help, discharge upgrade services, caregiver support
and legal advice, to name a few. Several are also accredited by the VA to file
and assist with disability claims, including for those transitioning off active
Additionally, they are often the best place to
find information on what’s happening in the military and veteran communities.
Through magazines, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, meetings, guidebooks,
research projects, and social media, VSOs work hard to find the most important
and latest information about the topics that matter to their members and many
have access to people and places that you may never have access to on your own,
to include the people and organizations responsible for overseeing services,
policies, and benefits for service members, veterans, and their families.
Veteran service organizations aren’t just
places to drink a beer — though many offer that if that’s what you’re looking
for. They are organizations that provide a variety of benefits to their
members, their communities, and to the broader military and veteran populations
as a whole. And the more members they have, the more they can do on all fronts.
If you don’t yet belong to a VSO, I challenge
you to put aside any stereotypes or preconceived notions you may have and go
explore them. Check out their social media. Subscribe to their newsletters, or
walk-in to the closest post, service platoon, or chapter. See what they have to
offer and how you can contribute. What do you have to lose?
If you aren’t sure where to start, you can check out VA’s VSO directory. It breaks out which VSOs are nonprofits chartered by Congress, which are accredited to assist with VA claims, and provides contact information for them and others.