We have an answer to the question I posed a few days ago, "Who will be the 500th member?"
The 500th member is Felicia K Ewing, who is a Persian Gulf Era, Air Force Veteran! I put the challenge of recruiting our 500th members to you. As it turns out, an Active Duty member, who I thought I had already signed up for the Legion was someone I had not! Go figure. Next another Legionnaire who I had talked about transferring in December transferred from the Dept Holding Post. Then it was down to number 500. So I asked Felicia, if she wanted to be member 500 and she said yes and completed her application. Felicia's husband joined the Post late last year. All this happened within 1 hour!
500 members is a very significant milestone in the history of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial American Memorial Post 295. When the post received a temporary Charter on April 15, 1983 there were 15 members and when the Permanent Charter was issued on December 7th, 1984 there were a few more. During the next several years Post 295's membership rose to 279 members. Post 295 operated a Post home in a rented space under what is now Fuddruckers in the Quince Orchard area of Gaithersburg. When the Post ran into rent problems because the building's owners want to sell the building membership eventually fell off to 27 members in 2001. In 2002, membership began to climb again with my transfer to Post 295.
Over the last 7 Legion years, which run from July to June, the Post's membership has risen 1821%. Recruiting new members is difficult. Keeping members and encouraging members to get active is another. For the most part, members take 2 to 3 years to really become interested in participating.
Of course while we have 500 members some of the numbers may surprise you. Out of our 500 members, 1 member has 64 years of continuous membership. When George Benas enlisted in the Navy in WWII, his father a WWI Veteran and member of the American Legion signed him up for the Legion. You can see George at many events, especially the Golf Tournament that he has participated in with his three sons. Just like George's father, I signed my nephew and my two sons up for the American Legion when they went off to basic training. So can you… Next in continuous membership are John Dochod and Tom Rufty two Vietnam Veterans both with more that 33 and 34 years respectively. Only thirteen members have more than 20 years, and sixteen have more that 10 years. The second largest group of 165 members has less than 10 but more than three years. The largest group has less than 2 years of membership and has 280 members. What we can take from these numbers is that our membership is younger and certainly not dying out. We are a growing organization and we as Legionnaires must encourage that growth. Every member should bring in at least 1 new member. Not as difficult as one may think. We come from different backgrounds, Army, Marine, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. As the largest service the Army represents the most membership with 164 members, the Navy and Air Force each have 76 members, Marines have 33 members and the Coast Guard has the smallest representation with 17 members. Of course the numbers do not add up, because the records fail to reflect everyone's service. Our Post members served in every conflict except World War I. There are 19 World War II Veterans still with the Post. Korea is represented with 13 veterans. Vietnam Veterans, Post 295's namesake accounts for 108 members, and the small eligibility periods of Lebanon/Grenada and Panama account for 69 and 53 veterans. Again, pointing to a growing organization there are more than 209 are Persian Gulf Era members.
So Legionnaires the new challenge is for every member to make the commitment to do your best to bring in at least 1 new member and to renew for at least one year.
There are many benefits that can help you save money and have your membership pay for itself. There are discounts at Sears, and on computers, eyeglasses, prescriptions, travel, hotels and insurance.
The Department of Maryland is working on the American Legion Aggregate Electrical Cooperative. The Coop is already paying dividends for Legion Posts. As soon as the administration and enrollment issues are worked out it should get going to save us money.
For the Veterans!