Carmel VFW starts campaign to recruit young veterans, issue faces posts nationwide

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CARMEL, Ind. (Dec. 1, 2015) – Richard Leirer is on a new mission.

A Vietnam veteran, and current commander of Carmel VFW Post 10003, he wants the men and women who enter the post to look less like him and more like his sons.

“Getting younger members, absolutely,” he said. “Getting younger members.”

Leirer has taken on a challenge sweeping VFW’s nationwide.

Indiana troops who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t joined their local posts like veterans from Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

“We’re not just your bar and a place to come have a drink and smoke,” Leirer said. “We’re a lot more than that.”

Leirer said changing perceptions is part of the challenge, too.

So 2016 will bring a new mission.

Carmel’s VFW will target young veterans during a membership drive, knowing the challenges that lie ahead when returning home.

“We understand what they’re going through because a lot of us have PTSD,” Leirer said. “That’s just part of it.”

On Monday, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) underscored the need for more mental health resources for Hoosier veterans.

“We have to improve mental healthcare for the men and women who serve our country,” he said.

President Obama recently signed into law Donnelly’s measure that is meant to help combat veteran suicides.

“I see firsthand the evidence of mental health issues coming back from our younger veterans,” Commander Larry Lowry said, with the American Legion.

Leirer knows comradery is just as critical as care.

That’s why he said this new mission can’t wait.

“Show them what we do,” he said. “Show them how the VFW can help the community and help them. We help them with everything from their veterans benefits to finding jobs.”

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