It is one of the sad ironies of the Iraq War is that veterans organizations once thought to have all but outlived their usefulness are all too relevant once again. In the 1980s and into the 1990s, every small town in America had either an American Legion or VFW post on the edge of the community. With World War II veterans — the men who formed the backbone of these groups — dying off at a rate of 1000 a day, you might think these groups would be disappearing from the scene as well. But that isn’t happening.
In fact, the need to support the soldiers, sailors and marines returning home from Iraq, has caused these groups to return to their original mission — helping vets adjust to life at home and making sure they get adequate health care. We tend to forget today, but there was a day when the VFW and American Legion were something other than a place to find cameraderie and an affordable cold glass of beer. The VFW was founded after the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection, which are roughly analagous to the initial invasion of Iraq and subsequent insurgency. The vets came back with strange diseases, malaria and yellow fever, among others, and needed help. So too the Legion, founded in Paris in 1919 amid tales of mistreatment of returned veterans.
I write about this development in my column in The New York Sun.