Local post hopes law opens VFW membership

From Staff Reports

   "Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country," is a recruitment slogan that symbolizes the mobilization of American military forces against foreign aggressors. That same slogan could apply to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization today.
   Congress and President George W. Bush have made it easier for veterans to be eligible to join the VFW organization, which has faced a decline in membership since the 1970s.
   John Kinder, membership chairman of Lynn H. Folsom VFW Post No. 2166, said membership in the VFW organization was previously reserved for those who served on foreign soil during a declared war.
   However, VFW membership eligibility changed late last year. In October 2002, Congress enacted legislation (Public Law 107-242) to permit all veterans who served in a designated hostile fire or imminent danger area to be eligible to join the VFW organization.
   "By extending eligibility to this group of veterans and U.S. armed forces personnel, the VFW organization is recognizing and thanking them for their service to our country," Kinder said.
   This group of veterans, like those who served in the Korean conflict, will not have a campaign medal or badge shown on their separation documents, according to Kinder, a 20-year Army veteran who served in Vietnam.
   The local VFW organization had 1,800 members during the 1960s. However, since the 1970s, membership has steadily declined to a level of 400 members today. The decline in membership is attributed to the rising death rate among World War II and Korean War veterans, according to Kinder.
   "In the United States, an average of 1,500 veterans die every day," he said.
   The most effective way for veterans to establish eligibility for VFW membership is to provide a copy of their pay records which indicate receipt of hostile fire or imminent danger pay, Kinder added.
   Kinder said he looks forward to the day an increase in membership will permit the local VFW organization to expand its community service role, including its Military Honor Guard.
   Lynn H. Folsom VFW Post No. 2166 was established July 6, 1931 and named for Capt. Lynn H. Folsom, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross who served in World War I. If veterans are in doubt on eligibility, they should contact Kinder at 423-542-0520.