BPOE and veterans, make a difference!
As Elks, we pledge ourselves to serving our communities. Our children and veterans are priorities. Youth activities create potential future members. Veterans are current and potential members now!
How can our Lodges tap that veteran resource? It all starts with the local Lodge. The Exalted Ruler appoints the Lodge Veterans Committee. This group is critical if you are to have success in bringing the veteran community into your Lodge, both as existing members or new members, and serving your community veterans in general.
The Lodge committee must, I repeat must, have passion. If your committee and the chairman lack passion, it is imperative that the ER find members that do have it. As a Viet Nam combat veteran, I do not appreciate lip service when it comes to serving vets. Passion shows caring!
There are two sides to veterans and membership. The first is retention. Retain those current members that are veterans. Do you know how many members are veterans in your Lodge? Serving as a Lodge secretary for my Lodge previously, I was surprised at the number of members that were not identified in CLMS as vets. For those not familiar with CLMS, there is a check box under the ROLES tab for each member that specifies veteran status. When issuing membership cards to members, one sticker I feel is more important than any other is the VETERAN sticker. Not sure what that is? Check your stickers order form from R.W. Lampton, Group C, and you will see an example of the bright red VETERAN sticker. Why is this important? Recognition as a veteran! When visiting another Lodge, showing the membership card with that sticker, one of the first responses is “thank you for your service”! We veterans appreciate the acknowledgement, even more so those of us that came home in the 60’s and 70’s to a “less-than-welcome” home greeting. In summary, identify your existing members that are veterans, recognize them in a visible permanent manner, and keep them involved serving their brother and sister veterans!
A recent report states “Twenty million veterans live in the United States. They live in every state and in nearly every county across the nation. About 5 million veterans lived in areas designated as rural by the U.S. Census Bureau during the 2011–2015 period. Understanding who rural veterans are and what sets them apart from other veterans, as well as from their rural neighbors, provides the necessary perspective for rural communities, government agencies, veterans’ advocates, and other policymakers interested in directing programs and services to this population.” The 21 million veterans include 2 million female veterans. Page 2 is a breakdown of the demographics for the State of Oregon.
If we could recruit 10 percent of those veterans, we would have roughly 2.1 million members nationally. The State of Oregon has over 323,000 veterans. 10 percent of those would be over 32,000 members. Deduct from those numbers the current total of member veterans and you still have an increase. Increase the percentage, increase membership!
Grand Lodge and the State Associations can provide services for veterans through monetary and other assistance. But the real effort, the hard work, falls on the local Lodge. And that gets me back to the point of your Lodge committee needing passion! Each community has a unique personality and the veterans that live and work there will reflect that personality. Partner with your local veterans’ groups like the American Legion, the VFW, the VVA, and some newer organizations that are specific to our recent conflicts and those that served in those locations. Non-veterans may not be aware of the fact that many veterans do not qualify for membership in these organizations. Several are even more specific such as the Military Order of the Purple Heart or the DAV, Disabled American Veterans. There are more. The Elks only require we believe in God and that we are citizens in good moral standing. That gives us the ability to bring all veterans that meet our requirements into the fold.
I served in the US Army Infantry in Viet Nam. The Infantry has a symbol of a soldier standing upright, his rifle in the air, and the words “FOLLOW ME!” This is the role we should play in the Elks. Bring all veterans under one united organization, working for veterans and walking the walk – “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”