Like so many other fraternal veterans groups across the country, the Schenectady Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 357 is in a battle for survival amid dwindling membership.
The post, one of the oldest in New York state, will meet April 21 for its election of officers. But chief on the agenda is whether the post, founded in 1920 just months after the end of The Great War, should continue.
Membership has dwindled in recent years from a height of more than 300 to about 120. It’s becoming harder to find new people to elect as needed officers. A monthly meeting may draw only a dozen or so members.
“We are trying to get as many members as possible,” said Past Post Commander Robert D. Shave, 67, of Schenectady, an Army Vietnam veteran. If new members can’t be found, “We have to think about selling it soon.”
“It’s just not the same.”
The Schenectady post is hardly alone, as membership/attendance at other veterans posts such as American Legion have also shrunk, local officials said.
“Everybody is in the same boat,” said Post Commander Tom Clark of Schenectady, a Navy Vietnam veteran.
The problem for the Schenectady post, like many others, is the vast majority of members hail from the Vietnam or Korean War era, along with a few surviving World War II vets. Veterans of more recent conflicts either have declined to join or formed different groups.
“The veterans who are coming home are saying ‘I don’t want to join,’ ” Clark said. “I understand: I came home in 1968 and didn’t join [the VFW] until 1973.”
Neither Clark nor Shave would put an exact threshold on the number of members needed April 21. The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. at the post located at 1309 Fifth Ave.
“It’s very important to discuss it,” Shave said.