VFW Magazine — April 2017
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Member Corner
Tim Dyhouse

In a state known for unprecedented VFW membership growth, this Arizona Post focuses on service to be a perennial leader in recruiting and retention.

Proximity to an Army base has been a boon for recruiting at Post 9972 in Sierra Vista, Ariz. It finished last year as the fourth largest VFW Post with 2,079 members. The formula for building membership is fairly simple, according to Post Commander Jim McCormick.

“Our Post is located next to the U.S. Army base at Fort Huachuca,” he said. “Many of our members work at the fort and routinely meet with soldiers who are not members and ask them to join.”

McCormick, who is in his first term as Post commander after holding several Post- and District-level positions, said the daily contact with active-duty troops is invaluable. As a result, about half of the Post’s members are under 50 years old.

“Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will be running the organization someday, and they eventually will be the majority of VFW’s membership,” said McCormick, who served with the Army’s 1st Bde., 2nd Armored Div., in 1991’s Persian Gulf War.

He added that recruiters at Post 9972, home to past VFW Commander-in- Chief and former Adjutant General Allen “Gunner” Kent, don’t discriminate when looking for new members.

“We ask male and female veterans about joining,” McCormick said. “Currently, our Post has two female veterans as elected line officers and another woman is an elected line officer in our District.”

McCormick said he and Post Quartermaster Roland Fuerst estimate that women comprise about 10 percent of Post 9972’s members.

McCormick added that there is “no secret” to retaining those members.

“We encourage all new members to sign up for life memberships,” he said. “We find that they are very receptive to the one-year payment plan.”

McCormick stressed that his Post’s relationship with active-duty troops at Fort Huachuca, located about 75 miles southeast of Tucson, Ariz., and some 15 miles north of the Mexico border, is not just about filling membership rolls. He said it’s important to give back, too.

“Our largest event is on Memorial Day,” he said. “Our members place crosses, Stars of David and Islamic crescents in front of headstones inside the historic Fort Huachuca Cemetery in support of the Army’s formal Memorial Day ceremony at the fort.”

McCormick, who also served with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment during 1995’s Operation Uphold Democracy on Haiti, said the Memorial Day ceremony is popular with soldiers and members of the community, too. Last year, for example, he said 75 people volunteered.

“For many, it’s an annual event,” he said. “Members of our Post and Auxiliary, as well as the VFW Riders from Arizona’s District 7 come out to help decorate headstones. We also get help from the Buena High School JROTC program, and several local merchants donate food and beverages for the volunteers.”

Serving veterans also is a big part of the Post’s success, according to McCormick.

“Our Post service officer is always ready to meet a veteran to assist in any VA-related issue,” he said. “Veterans can come to the Post to see the service officer. We also use our Post minivan to provide vets transportation for medical appointments.”

As leaders of a successful Post, McCormick and Fuerst agree that VFW at the national level can offer new benefits to attract young vets.

“VFW should partner with national retailers like Sam’s Club or Costco to provide our members with reduced memberships at their stores,” McCormick said. “We also should look at partnering with one or more of the national health care providers so VFW members can get reduced rates for health care.”

Taking care of the youngest generation of veterans, he believes, is the path toward securing VFW’s future.

“As the premier national veterans service organization, we have to start looking at what tangible benefits we can provide for our members,” McCormick said.

Email tdyhouse@vfw.org

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