VFW hopes to recruit Iraq, Afghanistan veterans

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Hillsville post want to grow membership with involvement of soldiers returning from recent conflicts.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — With military operations winding down after the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Grover King VFW Post 1115 members hope these new veterans will join the local service organization.
Operations came to an end in Iraq in December 2011 and operations in Afghanistan will end in 2014.
Veterans have returned home from these conflicts to the Twin Counties, and VFW Commander Wayne Jenkins and other Grover King officers have been considering different ways to reach out to them.
Around 10 percent of Carroll County’s population is made up of persons retired from the various branches of the military, according to the U.S. Census, American Community Survey, which includes five-year estimates from 2007 to 2011.
The estimates do not break down the veterans by age or when they served.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that Virginia has a total of 837,051 veterans statewide, as of September 2012.
“We do recruiting in different locations and, hopefully, you run across a vet from Iraq or Afghanistan who aren’t members,” said Jenkins, a Vietnam veteran.
The post would welcome any interested men or women who served overseas, he said. The Grover King Post does not have a lot of active members from either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Bringing in these new, younger members could also help revitalize the VFW post in Hillsville.
Grover King, one of the larger and most active VFW posts in Virginia, has obtained 98.7 percent of its membership goal for the year.
With 779 members as of March 14, the post only lacked about 15 or 20 of making its target.
“Our real goal is 110 percent to make ‘all state,’” the commander said. “I’d be happy with 100 percent.”
World War II veterans, who have done much of the work to build the post, have been passing away more frequently. The hope among the post members is to reach the younger veterans coming out of the more recent conflicts to keep Grover King viable and active.
“What we really need is a younger generation in here to carry on,” Jenkins said at a morning gathering at the post.
VFW members want to find ways to commemorate the service of these recent veterans and get them more involved.
Fellowship is definitely one thing the Grover King post can offer. “Being able to work with other vets on various occasions.”
While the post is a major community center, officers are thinking about ways to have more activities for veterans. A cookout when the weather improves is one idea.
There’s a proposal to have the local Wounded Warriors chapter meet at the Grover King post, starting on the third Wednesday of the month in May, from noon to 2 p.m.
Loyalty Day, where the post honors others for their service, is scheduled for May 5.
They have ruled out one idea — they will not turn the VFW post into a bar, like posts in some other communities do.
“We’re trying to make it more active — more for the vets to be involved with and make them want to come out,” Jenkins said.

The Grover King VFW Post 1115 is at 701 W. Stuart Drive in Hillsville. Mailing address is P.O. Box 1952, Hillsville VA 24343. For more information, call (276) 728-2911 or visit www.vfw1115.com/.