WEST CARROLLTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Every Tuesday night you can find the seats full at the Veterans of War Post 3438 in West Carrollton for bingo night.
According to Post Commander Joe Ketring, it’s one of the post’s most popular weekly events, and it’s been a great recruitment tool for new members.
“It’s hard to go out to public places and say, ‘Hey, I’m with the VFW,’ and they say, ‘What is the VFW?’ They have no clue,” Ketring said. “We try and get them to come in and play bingo.”
Over the last decade, memberships for veterans organizations have declined, which puts these groups at risk of losing their ability to help veterans and the community they serve.
“Right now, a lot of the country is just not a joining organization,” Lynn Rolf, programs director for the VFW national headquarters, said.
The VFW has lost more than 300,000 members since 2014. The organization’s total number of members went from 1,320,472 in 2014 to 1,019,453 in 2022.
The drop in membership is often attributed to aging veterans and a lack of interest from some younger ones.
“We need those younger veterans to bring those thoughts and those ideas and keep us moving forward,” Rolf said.
To recruit new members, the VFW has been working to change some of the misconceptions about the organization.
“We don’t want it to be stereotyped as just a place that people go to drink,” Ketring said. “That’s not the only purpose we have here.”
Each year Post 3438 raises money for and holds a Christmas party for kids in need, provides scholarships to high school students, donates to first responders and visits with veterans at the Dayton VA Medical Center and in nursing homes.
“We are patriots at heart and we love our fellow veterans,” Post 3438 Quartermaster and Judge Advocate Lisa McIntire said. “We love our country, our community, and it just means so much to be able to continue to serve.”
On a national level, the VFW, and similar organizations, advocate for veterans on Capitol Hill. One of their most recent accomplishments was the passage of the PACT Act in 2022.
“We led that crusade,” Rolf said.
Some of these efforts show signs of working, the VFW reported an uptick in new members for the first time since 2019. 27,038 new members joined last year, and there are already 29,675 new members this year.
For some of the younger members of Post 3438, like McIntire, she says the organization is more than just bingo nights and community service, it’s also fellowship between those who have served our country.
“Us as the younger veterans really appreciate the learning more about our heritage directly from those who have gone before us,” McIntire said. “It is a tremendous honor to continue that legacy of service as a member of the VFW.”
To learn more about VFW membership, click here.