Appeal Staff Writer
Their continued commitment to the country they defended in battle is leading members of Dayton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8660 to work hard to enlist younger veterans.
“The VFW is aging,” said 8660 post Commander Cary Dyer. “I’m 60, and I’m a youngster. That tells you something.”
Regionally, VFW posts have been reaching out to young veterans at National Guard posts to encourage them to join.
“We go to the units and actively recruit new members and direct them to a post near where they live,” he said. “The new effort is paying great results.”
Dyer, who served in Korea, though not during the war, said joining the Veterans of Foreign Wars is merely a continuation of his service.
“It gives me a sense of giving back to the country, the same as I did in my military service,” he said. “We honor those who have served and died, past, present and future.”
But younger veterans are not joining the ranks of the VFW in numbers that past veterans had, although the national organization is recruiting heavily among today’s military.
That recruitment worked with Sgts. Shaun Schnebel and Elizabeth Liemandt, both veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Well, I felt I wanted to join. It’s one of those rites of passage things,” Liemandt said. “When we got home, we had a contact to sign us up.”
Liemandt, 37, thinks military personnel of her generation and younger should be the ones doing the recruiting.
“I think the best things is the people from this era recruit their own,” she said. “When we joined up, we lowered the average age in the room by 30 years.”
She praised the VFW for looking out for veterans’ rights.
“They’re one of the biggest groups that makes Congress behave,” she said.
Liemandt, who moved from Dayton to Carson City recently, will stay with Post 8660.
“They’re a great group of guys,” she said, “But it’ll be good if our own (age) would join, that would be the best.”
Dyer said in the past, the image of the VFW has been a bunch of old guys that sat around and drank.
“In California, I joined a VFW, but never attended, because all they did was sit around and drink,” he said. “There was no recognition for veterans at all in California.”
He said Nevada is different. “In Nevada, people are very appreciative of veterans’ service,” he said.
Dyer said at Post 8660’s functions, alcohol is never available and the focus is on community service.
They honor a Teacher of the Year and a Firefighter of the Year, Dyer said. They also promote essay contests for middle and high school students.
“The Patriot’s Pen program is for middle school kids and the Voice of Democracy program is for the high school students,” he said, adding that the students write essays on patriotic themes and submit them for local, regional, state and national contests.
Post members also go to schools, particularly around Veterans Day, to make certain children understand the sacrifices made for their freedoms.
The post’s red-white-and-blue parade float is familiar sight to many Northern Nevadans, as it regularly is seen in the Nevada Day Parade in Carson City, the Dayton Valley Days Parade in Dayton and parades on the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day and over the Memorial Day weekend in Virginia City.
The members of 8660 also perform somber ceremonies honoring veterans at cemeteries on both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Post 8660 provides camaraderie, aids disabled veterans, helps returning vets apply for benefits, and assist families of veterans, Dyer said.
He said the post has members who served in just about every war from World War II to the current fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One member, John Bailey, fought the Japanese on the island of Iwo Jima.
To be a member, a person has to have served in a foreign war or war zone, unlike the American Legion, which only requires members to have served in the military. Dyer said many veterans join both, as well as other veterans organizations like the Korean War Veterans Association and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Veterans of some of America’s smaller conflicts, such as Panama and Grenada, are also eligible, Dyer said.
Post 8660 was created in 1991, and Dyer is the Post’s fourth commander.
“We have the highest attendance of any post in the state,” he said of the 72 members, two of whom are women.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.