Connecting With Younger Veterans at Your Post
VFW members are 1.3 million strong! While the Vietnam era continues to dominate the VFW population, it’s the younger subset of Gulf War veterans whose membership is growing. Nearly 78,000 veterans joined VFW between January 2012 and October 2013, and close to half of them are under age 45. Connecting with these younger veterans is essential to VFW’s longevity and the reputation of local VFW Posts.
There are hosts of innovative and meaningful ways your Post can engage with younger veterans, and the list provided below is designed to help get you started. You may find it helpful to establish a committee with the sole purpose of engaging with younger members and young veterans in your community.
1. Sponsor family-friendly holiday events. Social events like these can be as big or as small as your Post desires, depending on your budget and volunteer base. It’s likely that you’ve got some members/spouses who enjoy party planning so why not put their talent to use planning some fun Post events such as:
Christmas party with Santa
Easter party with the Easter Bunny and an egg hunt
4th of July picnic with fireworks
Veterans Day festival or carnival
2. Host "Parent’s Night Out” events. With the help of teenage and college-age children of Post members and a few responsible adults, host a night of babysitting with fun activities and food for kids. Your Post can provide it as a free service, or charge a small fee to cover the cost of supplies. Parents with younger children will appreciate an evening out to go to dinner or run errands, and events scheduled around the holidays can give parents time for shopping. Be sure to have first-aid kits handy and try to find caregivers that are trained in basic first-aid and CPR to give parents the peace of mind they need to enjoy their evening out.
3. Don’t allow smoking in the restaurant and/or bar areas of the Post. Because times have changed and smoking is prohibited in most public places, a lot of young parents will be hesitant to bring their children into a smoke-filled room. While you shouldn’t encourage smoking, it may be more appropriate to have a designated smoking area (if allowed by city ordinance) such as a patio or courtyard to accommodate those members accustomed to smoking at the Post. Place a receptacle in the area for easy and tidy disposal of cigarette butts. If you’ve allowed smoking in your restaurant and bar in the past, consider having the areas professionally cleaned to help eliminate the stale smell of smoke.
4. Offer kid-friendly meal choices. If your Post has a restaurant, try adding some kid-friendly meals to the menu. Parents will often choose a restaurant based on the availability of tasty and affordable choices for their kids. You might also consider designating a "Kids Eat Free” day/night to help draw business on evenings that are less busy for your restaurant.
5. Update the décor inside your Post. It’s important that the atmosphere of the bar, restaurant or dance hall be inviting to younger members including modern and clean furnishings, bright lights, and an overall contemporary feel. There are a lot of inexpensive, easy updates that can be made that will make a big difference in the overall visual appeal of your Post. And while some updates may be more costly to accomplish, they can be a worthwhile investment when trying to bring younger veterans in to the Post.
2. Host sporting events. Encourage older members to invite younger veterans to attend an organized activity such as a football or baseball game. Or host game-watching parties of favorite local or regional sporting events at the Post. These are a great way to foster camaraderie among members and potential members of all ages!
3. Equip the Post with access to computers or laptops for member use. Providing free wireless internet connection at the Post is also a good idea for today's technologically savvy younger veterans. A local telecommunications company can help you get a secure connection established.
4. Host or sponsor a job fair. Finding employment in civilian life is a high priority, and often highly challenging for recently discharged servicemen and women. Contact your local Better Business Bureau for direction on how to coordinate a job fair at your Post, or how to participate in local fairs within your community.
5. Host a resume writing and interview-preparation workshop. Writing a resume and going on job interviews can be challenging and intimidating for young adults and veterans looking for work. Consider bringing in a business professional to provide tips to younger veterans on producing a well-written resume highlighting the skills they've learned and utilized during deployment, along with some interview coaching. The Department of Business at a local community college and/or area high school counselors both serve as good resources for finding an instructor to hold training.
6. Arrange for free or low-cost financial planning assistance for younger members. Young families and singles returning to civilian life can often use guidance in preparing a budget and planning for future expenses.
7. Work with local businesses to offer a discount to Post members. Consider creating a discount card with a collection of the discounts available from these community merchants.
8. Organize support for the spouses of deployed members. This could include hosting monthly dinners or weekly coffee dates, offering free evening childcare, providing lawn care and snow removal services, holding a book club or prayer group, or providing assistance with transportation to and from activities. Time of deployment is challenging—and providing support to these families is essential to their well-being!
9. Create a social media presence. Set up a Facebook page or blog for the Post and encourage young members to engage in the conversations. You can use it as an avenue to keep members up-to-date regarding upcoming events while also providing them a place to share Post-related experiences.
10. Encourage young vets to take on leadership positions within the Post. Nurture those who show potential for leadership and support them in their endeavors. Be sure to provide ample training to those who are elected into office.
What ideas do you have for engaging with the younger members and families at your Post? We’d love to hear your suggestions.
Proper Disposal of Unserviceable U.S. Flags
The United States flag represents the freedom and patriotism of our great country. It serves as a powerful symbol that merits great respect. As such, standards for its use, handling and display in public and residential settings are governed by the United States Flag Code. While no penalties are assessed for anyone who fails to comply with the Code, it does serve as a set of guidelines and instructions to be voluntarily followed.
The Flag Code states the following about the destruction of worn flags:
"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."
While the Code does not address a specific process for flag burning, it does state that any procedure that is in good taste and that upholds respect for the flag is appropriate. As an example, the Veterans of Foreign Wars has published an honorable method for conducting flag burnings:
1. The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
2. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
3. Place the flag on the fire.
4. The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
5. After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
6. Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances.
As a service to your community, you might want to consider establishing your VFW Post as a flag collection site to help dispose of worn and tattered flags in a safe and dignified way. For those opposed to the idea of burning the flag, even as a means of disposal, alternate methods for disposal include burying or donating the flags to collectors.
Business Income Insurance: A Real Saving Grace
Does your Post’s property policy include Business Income Insurance (also known as Business Interruption Insurance)? Designed to protect against loss of income if your Post suffers a property loss or damage from covered perils (i.e. fire, vandalism, natural disaster, etc.) and is forced to close its doors to repair or rebuild, Business Income Insurance is the buffer that provides income equal to what would have been earned had the loss not occurred. It helps to ensure that overhead expenses and payroll can still be paid while no revenue is being generated from paying customers and also provides coverage for extra expenses that may be incurred by the Post as a result of the shutdown, such as those involved in setting up a temporary location and/or notifying patrons of the intent to rebuild.
Most property policies include Business Income coverage but the limit may not always be adequate to cover the Post’s income and expenses in the case of a devastating loss. Coverage is available, however− such as that provided by the VFW Post Insurance Program−to cover losses on an Actual Loss Sustained basis, meaning that claims are covered for the total amount of the loss vs. being confined to a specific coverage limit.
The need to insure the value of your Post’s physical property (i.e. buildings, computers, paraphernalia, etc.) is easily understandable but the necessity to protect the Post’s livelihood is equally important. Business Income Insurance could prove to be the saving grace for your Post should it ever be deeply impacted by a devastating loss.