Staff Sgt. Melishia Francis prepares her breast pump in a lactation room at Lackland Air Force Base's Wilford Hall Medical Hospital.
Daniel J. Calderón / U.S. Air Force

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Capt. Florent Groberg with Southern California high school students.
John Ismay/KPCC

Florent Groberg is in one of the smallest clubs in the military: he's a recipient of the Medal of Honor, a distinction earned by only ten living veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

Marine veteran John Knox arranges fall produce at the Growing Veterans farm stand at the VA Hospital in Seattle.
Patricia Murphy/KUOW

As traditional veterans organizations like the American Legion and VFW lose members, younger vets are gravitating toward dozens of smaller, more specialized groups that offer a social outlet and opportunity to serve.

The VFW Hall in Hoquiam, Washington.
Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

As part of the American Homefront Project's look at the history and future of America's veterans groups, reporters Jay Price and Patricia Murphy talk with host John Hockenberry on PRI's The Takeaway.

For many veterans of World War II and Vietnam, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts were popular social gathering places to share stories of war experiences. And they were powerful lobbying voices in the political sphere.

But across the nation, participation in these organizations has declined. Veterans groups are making new efforts to recruit younger members.

VFW Post 8469 in Fairfax, Va. is holding pumpkin-carvings and other events to try to become more family-friendly.
Jay Price/WUNC

The leadership of the American Legion and VFW is seeking younger, more diverse members. But they face a challenge changing their public image.


Men pose outside American Legion Post 177 in Venice, California in this undated photo. The post remains in operation today.
University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Libraries Special Collections

Groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have served former service members for a century. But declining membership threatens to lessen their influence.


At American Legion Post 87 in High Point, N.C., the bar is jumping, even though some of the patrons are almost 70 years old.

"The sad part is, some of the older vets, the World War II, the Korea vets, they're passing on," says Fred Iannone, the post's commander. "The Vietnam veterans so far, we're holding our own."

Veterans organizations, like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, are losing their older members and struggling to attract the younger veterans of more recent wars.

Navy veteran Dick Oliver lives in Westchester, California.
John Ismay/American Homefront Project

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project talks with former service members about their time in the armed forces.

The Selective Service System promotes registration through these transit billboards, as well as TV and radio public service announcements.
Selective Service System

As more military jobs are opened to women, Congress may face the question of whether to require women to register for the Selective Service.


Selective Service program analysts Vince McClure (right) and Cristine Nguyen demonstrate the machines that would determine who would be drafted if the U.S. reinstates a miliatary draft.
Jagmeet Mac / American Homefront Project

The last American was drafted in 1973, but the U.S. maintains an elaborate infrastructure to re-activate the draft if Congress ever decides it's needed.


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