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Should a Young Veteran Join a Veterans Organization?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a military veteran as an old soldier of long service or a former member of the armed forces. When most of us think of a Veterans Organization we picture the old soldier. We associate these groups with the WWII veteran who is now in his 80s and proudly displays the emblem of his service unit on the tall brim of his cap. The truth of the matter is that the average age of a "former member of the armed forces" is much younger. According to Veterans Administration statistics over 60% of all veterans are under the age of 65. There are many reasons why those younger veterans should belong to a Veterans Organization.

A veterans organization is a community which provides services to former members of the military and their families. While the Veterans Administration does not directly endorse any Veterans or Military Service Organization they do provide a list of over 50 such organizations and encourage membership and cooperation with these veterans groups. Despite this encouragement membership at a veterans organization like the American Legion has steadily declined over the last five decades. From its peak of 3.3 million in 1946, membership has declined to its current level of 2.6 million. While some of these statistics are the result of demographics, all such organizations are seeking ways to become more attractive and relevant to a younger veteran.

In October of 2010 VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki praised the work of Student Veterans of America (SVA), a veterans organization that advocates for Veterans seeking better jobs and better futures through education. SVA like the rest has a stated objective of ensuring that every veteran is successful after their military service. But maybe the most important benefit of belonging to a veterans organization like SVA is their stated objective of providing a peer to peer network. Much like college fraternities, an organization can benefit the young veteran by simply providing a framework for staying connected with other veterans.

Service organizations like the VFW offer member benefits on everything from discounted haircuts to employment assistance. But the biggest benefit a young veteran will see is the relationships he or she can forge with other veterans. As a member of an organization, young veterans will establish important relationships. Returning military service members often find it difficult to transition away from military service and re-connect with the community. A veterans organization can bridge the gap with opportunities to serve the community through civilian service and community events.

All veterans are encouraged to become a member of a veterans organization. By joining forces with other veterans after discharge they will stay connected with their military service and fully reap the benefits they deserve from that service. Friendships or even a mentor relationship can be formed where a younger veteran benefits from the wisdom and friendship of an older veteran. But even if a busy young veteran cannot attend regular meetings they can still profit from the information and advocacy a veterans organization can provide.

Armed with this advice, review a list of veterans organizations that you might join. Also learn about the many other benefits including education benefits at This site as well as the FREE Veterans Organization Portal will provide all of the information you need to make informed decisions about your post military career.

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