Younger Vets Helping Membership Flourish in Darien VFW Post 2838
Darien VFW Post 2838's membership is continuing to climb as younger veterans return home.
While many Veterans of Foreign Wars posts around the country are watching their memberships decline as aging World War II members pass away, an influx of younger veterans is helping to keep Darien VFW Post 2838 alive.
A partnership with a recruiter has helped the Darien post reach returning veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, the Post had about 100 members. Today, it boasts more than 150.
“We’re very fortunate,” said Ed Oldis, commander of the post and a World War II veteran.
One of those younger veterans is Brad Drake, 29, who served for several years in Afghanistan. Drake joined the Darien VFW in 2006 at the urging of friend and fellow member Matt Goodwin.
“The VFW is really a service-based organization and very set on helping other veterans and other veterans’ families,” he said. “For young guys especially, that’s a good thing when you come back to get involved. Not only do you get a chance to talk with older vets who have been there and done that, but it’s great to be involved in the community and help out doing service for other veterans.”
Oldis, a member for 15 years, calls the Darien post “a great bunch with tremendous stories.”
“No matter which conflict they were in, it’s great to know them,” he said. “They really appreciate life.”
Annually, the members of Darien VFW Post 2838 are involved in a host of activities, including a community blood drive, sponsoring Boy Scout Troop 97, sending care packages to active soldiers fighting overseas, a flag retirement program, a scholarship program for graduating Hinsdale South High School seniors, and supporting veterans at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.
Each year, in honor of Memorial Day, the post also hosts a ceremony. This year’s will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at Darien Community Park, 7100 Clarendon Hills Road. Boy Scout Troop 97 will also participate in the ceremony.
The post is now offering free membership to anyone interested in becoming a member.
“A lot of (returning veterans) don’t want to talk about what happened out in public. War is hell,” Oldis said. “Once you get to know us, you can swap stories.”
Drake also encourages veterans to join and find support.
“Veterans feel the need to want to help other veterans and the VFW is an excellent opportunity to do that,” Drake said.
Find more information about Darien VFW Post 2838 on Facebook.