Younger veterans sought for organizations

NORTH AUGUSTA --- When Veterans Day rolls around, Bob Ramsey enjoys sharing his exploits and those of other soldiers with youngsters such as Emily Mullner.

The North Augusta Elementary pupil in turn enjoys learning something new.

"It is just interesting to see who saved our country and all," the 10-year-old said after visiting a war memorabilia museum set up at the school by several veterans Tuesday. "We get to learn about the different things they used to do."

The future might not be so enlightening.

Mr. Ramsey, the commander of American Legion Post 71, said he fears organizations such as his might not be able to provide those experiences much longer. He said there's a strong need for younger veterans to become involved if the organizations are to continue presenting such programs.

World War II and Korean War veterans have been the most active at Post 71, and with those members aging and passing away, new recruits are needed to keep the organization growing, said Mr. Ramsey, who is 73 and served two tours in Vietnam.

Post 71 has 442 active members, ranking it among the five largest American Legions in South Carolina, but about 100 are World War II veterans, Mr. Ramsey said.

"We are losing our membership. In fact, since November of last year we have lost more people than we have recruited, all of them being World War II veterans," he said of the 22 deceased members.

Post 63 in Augusta says it can't get younger veterans to join either.

"We're an older post, as most are, and the young people just don't seem to need the comradeship," said William Shirley, a former commander.

Younger recruits are needed to keep Post 71 and other military organizations going strong, Mr. Ramsey said.

"The recent War on Terrorism age is what we need," Mr. Ramsey said.

"We are in dire need of younger members because the World War II types are dying out and the Korean veterans are getting quite old."

Post 71 has only 20 members from recent years, and Post 63 reported less than that out of their nearly 200 members.

Mr. Ramsey said those coming back from war these days aren't as interested in joining.

"They've been separated from their families so much that they want to spend time with their family, young children they've missed in their multiple deployments," he said.

Mr. Shirley, 72, a Vietnam vet, said he read an article once that said military organizations will not be needed in the future and will die out by 2020.

"A lot of the organizations you can see in this area their membership is dying," Mr. Shirley said. "I think the article was pretty much on line.

"(With) the death of World War II veterans and Korean war veterans, as they pass on you don't have the younger members replacing them."

Reach Crystal Garcia at (706) 823-3409 or crystal.garcia@augustachronicle.com.

The National Weather Service is predicting a 90 percent chance of rain for Augusta today. Several events have been canceled:

DOWNTOWN AUGUSTA

- Veterans Day Parade

- Ceremony at All Wars Monument

- Ceremony at Riverwalk Augusta

NORTH AUGUSTA

- Ceremony at Wade Hampton Park, sponsored by American Legion Post 71, is postponed.