This week Nate and Francis discuss experiences with the VFW and American Legion. Both well established Veterans Service Organizations, the question becomes what use are they on an individual level? We asked on twitter and the responses were...disheartening.
The negative experiences from post 9/11 vets was overwhelming. Sexism, racism, gatekeeping from the old guard who don't think our war was as hard as theirs. At the National level these organizations are begging for new members, but if you don't feel welcome then why would anyone join?
This is not to say there aren't posts that are very helpful and inviting. A few even taken over by the younger generation to be turned into what they envision the future of VSOs to be. But when there's thousands of posts across the country, you're going to be hard up to build a mass movement of veterans to pick up those mantles. And what many of us are finding is it's easier to just start our own thing.
Personally (Francis here) I think these meeting spaces are important to have. We want to be around each other, but not necessarially make it an all military bitch-fest. Even on our show which is military centric doesn't talk about the Army all the time. A balance needs to be struck between guys in OEF/OIF hats and people who are looking for a social group. I don't know how to start that, but I think it can be done.
What I do know is that it needs to be aggressively inclusive of all veterans. Women, minorities, non-binary, and anything else. You singed up, you deserve a place you feel safe and comfortable.
An easy idea, but a hard implementation. Yet not impossible.