Navy Provisional Detainee Battalion Ramadi II 

Camp Arifjan Kuwait

November 2009 

Young Guns honor those that help them grow

 

In just a few short months, the Young Guns from VFW Post 1115 have started to develop a national following. by Carroll News Alan Worrell         more

MA2 Gary Adams BM2 David Sweet 

US Navy 2009

Young Guns

youngguns1115@yahoo.com 

 Facebook VFW Young Guns

Gary Adams Iraq 2009

Doug Barnes Iraq 2006-07

Earl Baskett  Desert Storm 1991

Mike Lara  Iraq 03-04

Marty Rivera Beirut 1983

 

 

The Young Guns: the new VFW generation

2015-01-28 | The Carroll News (Hillsville, Va.)

Jan. 27--With approximately 500 World War II veterans dying every day and Vietnam vets now aging in their 60s and 70s, membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars has been steadily declining nationally over the past two decades. A group of post-Vietnam War era vets hopes to reverse that trend at the Grover King VFW Post 1115 in Hillsville.

After a meeting late in 2014, six members of the Hillsville VFW Post sat down for a brainstorming session on ways to recruit younger members, while also helping the existing post continue to thrive in helping serve the public. As a result, the "Young Guns" committee was officially launched on Jan. 16.

"The younger generation like myself, you think of the VFW and you think of World War II, Vietnam and Korea veterans and they are sitting around drinking coffee," said Young Guns President Mike Lara, a two-tour Iraq veteran. "We wanted a committee that gives us something else to do. We will be doing a lot within the community and fundraising, and we just wanted to enhance the recruiting of the VFW because unfortunately the VFW is getting older. When those gentlemen pass away, we need somebody to step up."

Lara said the reason the Young Guns committee decided to use the post-Vietnam era as a cut-off point is because most everybody that served in the Vietnam War was drafted, while Post-Vietnam veterans chose to serve their country.

"As weird as it sounds, everybody from Vietnam is in their 60s or 70s now. They can't always get out on Saturday to cut somebody's grass or do those types of things. We are in our 30s and 40s and that is what we want to do," Lara said. "This committee is going to be working with the VFW. The more exposure we can get for the VFW, the better."

Lara stresses that Young Guns is a committee within the VFW. In order to join the Young Guns, you must first be a member of the VFW.

"Our goal is to work within the VFW Post, but come up with events that will strike an interest in younger veterans. And we are also a corps of friends as well, the camaraderie of the military, any kind of issues they have, they can call us and we can listen to them," Lara said. "PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a big thing and we understand it. It is always nice to talk to a fellow veteran, someone who is going through the same thing they are going through. And we also help with VA claims, getting them in the VA system."

Lara said the older members of the Hillsville VFW are ecstatic about the Young Guns committee. They are backing the group 100 percent, he said, and serving as mentors.

"We had to bring this up to a vote in the post and it was unanimous to let us do it. They are backing us every chance they can," Lara said. "And we all picked a mentor, someone who has been around a while and knows what is going on, so when you come up with ideas they can say, 'This is how you do it.' They are there every step, and they are also teaching us the traditions of the VFW."

VFW Post 1115 Commander Howard Minton said he has been impressed with the initiative of the Young Guns group. He gave them his blessing to move forward under the VFW leadership to recruit younger members.

"These guys are really working hard and I am proud of it and so is the state commander. We had a district meeting and he said he liked it and other posts are working on it too because we need to get younger people in," Minton said.

Part of the recruiting pitch the group hopes younger veterans will understand is that the camaraderie they had in the military still exists. That is what the VFW is founded on. Hearing war stories from some of the older veterans is an incredible experience, he said.

"They tell us how it used to be. It is amazing. We get picked on for being young. We pick on them for being old," Lara said. "Each branch thinks they are the best branch of the service. We are like a bunch of kids when you get us all together. We get back together for two or three hours once a month and it's like we are back in uniform."

Above all, the young group of vets wants to work side-by-side with the VFW.

"We are members of the post first and foremost. We taking advice from our forefathers, the gentleman who have been around, and we are just putting a young spin on things," Lara said. "The VFW is dying off and without us younger veterans it will cease to exist, we will have nowhere to call home. We are going to be doing fundraisers, events, not just for the veterans themselves, but for their families as well."

Joining Lara in the Young Guns committee is Vice President Marty Rivera, Sgt. of the Guard Doug Barnes, Police Sgt. Phillip Underwood, Secretary Gary Adams, and Treasurer Earl Baskett.

The VFW meets the second Friday of each month with a big meal at 5 p.m., followed by a meeting at 6 p.m. VFW Post 1115 has a very active Ladies Auxiliary for veterans' wives, which Lara encourages younger vets to take advantage of.

"We love family," he said. "I bring my two kids all the time."

Minton agreed with that assessment, noting that the VFW often gets mislabeled by outsiders.

"This post here is family oriented. The VFW is not a bunch of drunks. That is something people have put in their minds to think, but that isn't so," Minton said. "The only thing VFW stands for is Very Few Workers."

For more information about the Young Guns, e-mail Lara at michale.lara@yahoo.com or youngguns1115@yahoo.com, on Twitter@vfwyoungguns, on Facebook at vfw youngguns hillsville or call the Hillsville VFW Post at (276) 728-7311.

"This is just something we would like to go nationwide, but we want to build a solid foundation in Hillsville first," Lara said.

Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN