Tuesday, September 12, 2006
DALLAS -- After the Vietnam War, service brotherhoods like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion saw a loss in membership.
That war had torn apart the United States, and returning soldiers bore the brunt of residual public anger. The last thing many of them wanted or needed was to serve their communities or be reminded of their time in the military.
But 31 years after the official end of that conflict, the VFW and Legion are experiencing a membership resurrection.
"We didn't do right by our Vietnam vets," Dallas VFW Commander Dennis Miller said.
"I hope we learned something from that. I think we did, and I think that's why you see the vets coming back now being treated so well."
Miller fought during the first Gulf War. He is part of the new generation of soldiers coming out of the military with more public support and a desire to continue to give back to his community.
Gulf War veterans are joining World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans to swell the VFW ranks in Dallas and across the nation.
Jack Magnuson, the Dallas VFW Quartermaster and also a member of the Dallas American Legion, said the VFW suffered a greater loss during the lean years because of its stricter membership requirements, so it has taken them longer to recover than the Legion.
"You have to have a recognized campaign medal or ribbon from service on foreign soil," Magnuson said.
Members, and their membership fees, were scarce for more than a decade, which limited what the VFW could do in service to Dallas. However, he credits Miller's leadership, youth and enthusiasm for revitalizing the unit and raising its membership to more than 60.
The increase has allowed Magnuson, and his friend, Charlie Bair, to realize their longtime goal of establishing a VFW scholarship for Dallas High School seniors entering a trade school.
Magnuson and Bair are two of the longest-standing VFW members in Dallas. They kept the unit alive while membership was at its lowest, and now they are enjoying the wellspring of interest in a group they have held so dear.
""I recognized the VFW necessity and wanted to see it continue in this community," Bair said. "We are just beginning to see the results of our dedication."
For more information: Terry Smith, Dallas VFW membership chair, 503-508-0726. The VFW meets the first Tuesday of each month in room 108 at the Academy Building in Dallas.