Some Worried about Tradition as Veterans Groups' Membership Declines
Across the nation people stopped to celebrate Memorial Day Monday - a time-honored tradition that remembers the many Americans who died fighting for our country. But the people committed to memorializing the fallen are concerned about who will pick up the torch once they're gone.
Veteran Rex Rexrode served as a ground pounder in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
“When I got out of ‘Nam I came and joined American Legion Post 13 and VFW 2216,” said Rexrode.
Those two organizations plan the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton. They also support groups like the Virginia Wounded Warrior program and do outreach.
“We actually go out into the community, into the schools. We do burials. We give special honors,” said Rexrode.
The problem is members in Virginia’s posts are dwindling. That's because it's an aging population, with active members in their 80s and 90s.
“The newer generation just doesn't seem to want to serve the community as a veteran,” said Rexrode.
But it's also important to note that much of the crowd attending services like these are also in their golden years.
“As you can see here, each year it's almost the same people each year,” said Rexrode.
Susanna Larner thinks that might be because the older generations were impacted more directly by the wars.
“Everybody was involved in World War II. Either you were fighting the war or you were supporting the effort here at home some way, being in the factories, or rationing sugar,” said Larner.
Larner's father was a veteran of World War II. She maintains observances like these are meaningful.
“For us to not only remember those that serve now, but those that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Larner.
But with the risk of the posts dying out, are our veterans who fought and died at risk of being forgotten?
“If you don't have American Legion posts or VFW posts you're not going to have the special ceremonies,” said Rexrode.
A couple of younger veterans we spoke with say the recent wars are vastly different from the World Wars or even Vietnam. They also agree that the age difference plays a part.
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