When I first left active-duty Marine Corps back in 1993, I walked away from a close-knit family and brotherhood that I had grown accustomed to over the years. I had gotten engaged and moved in with someone I fell in love with, and within a few years, our first child came along. My life was busy and exciting, but I never stopped missing what the Corps provided.
This was back in 1993, before the Internet was well known and established. People had AOL and CompuServe, and the really cool kids were using bulletin board systems for years, but it still wasn't all that great at bringing post-military-service people together.
After a few years, I looked into organizations like the Marine Corps League, the VFW, American Legion, and even the Masons. I was looking to capture what I had before, but I quickly realized that there weren't many younger people my age. After a few meetings, I just wasn't feeling it and I walked away.
When social media became a thing, and Facebook started to dominate the market, I discovered several groups dedicated to the Marine Corps. I felt connected again, and I was IN it. Discussing topics that mattered to military-oriented people - it was a powerful new way to connect, and I found myself constantly drawn to those communities. If I could get this much personal satisfaction talking with my brothers and sisters online, imagine how much better it would be face-to-face at a Legion, or VFW, or some other military-friendly establishment?
I ended up returning to the local Legion, but this time, I had a renewed outlook on the importance of these places. I wanted to get involved for the networking possibilities, the healing factors, and of course, to help reinvigorate these clubs who are seeing their numbers dwindle.
If you are a younger veteran or active duty serviceperson, please look up information on your local American Legion or VFW, and pay them a visit. Get a beer, buy a good meal, and shoot the breeze with WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan war veterans. It is worth it. It makes a difference.
As you look around each day, seeing the news or reading the paper, it is no surprise to see a nation torn apart. We have lost our way, and the soul of this country was sold off long ago. It feels like we are circling the drain. If we could all just come together, united under our love of country and service to protect our nation's citizens, I believe we would be better off. Better off as individuals, as veterans, as a local community, and as a nation.
I live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and have been making regular visits to several local American Legions for over 3 years now. I am 44 years old now, and sadly, I am often the 'younger' face in the crowd. I hope and pray that more people my age, but especially those younger than me, will reconsider the Legion and give it another shot.
The Legion needs us. We need each other.
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