Youngwood VFW to celebrate 100th anniversary; seeks new members
The Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Youngwood celebrates its 100th anniversary Saturday, and officials are hopeful the organization will be able to attract more members so there will be future celebrations.
“We have very few new members with an all-volunteer Army. It’s difficult to maintain the members” as they age, said Jerry Begonia, quartermaster for Roy E. Closson VFW Post 211 in Youngwood.
The strict requirements to be a member — service in a war, campaign or expedition on foreign soil or in hostile waters — also limits those who can join, said Begonia, a Vietnam War veteran.
The VFW Post has 116 active members, most of whom are Vietnam War veterans, and many of them are in their 70s, Begonia said. The VFW Post still has two members who are WWII veterans and a group of veterans from the Korean War who are in their late 80s, he noted.
The military personnel fighting in the Iraq since 2003 and Afghanistan since 2001 are not joining the VFW in large numbers, probably in part because they have young children and family obligations, Begonia said.
“It’s tough to recruit those guys (to join the VFW) who are going to Iraq, Afghanistan,” said Begonia, 72, who was stationed in Thailand in 1967-1968.
The VFW, the nation’s largest and oldest war veterans organization, had seen membership steadily decline over the past 27 years, when rolls plunged to 1.16 million. But since July 2018, the VFW added 25,000 members. National Commander B.J. Lawrence attributed the growth to being more visible on the national scene as well as in more than 6,000 communities in all states, Washington, D.C., four U.S. territories and 11 foreign countries.
Before the VFW Post in Youngwood was established in 1919, there was a Veterans of Foreign Service organization formed in 1911 in the borough, Begonia said. The members likely would have served in the Spanish-American War of 1898 in the American-Philippine War from 1899-1902, during which Filipino nationalists fought for independence from the United States.
The VFW post was named forClosson, who enlisted in the Army out of the Youngwood district on April 12, 1917, only six days after Congress approved a declaration of war against Germany. Closson was part of Squadron 329 of the Remount Service, which was responsible for supplying horses and mules for the American Expeditionary Force, according to the Historical Research and Records website.
Closson was reported missing from action, then returned to his unit, Begonia said. He was killed by explosives Sept. 28, 1918, in the Argonne Forest in France, just about six weeks before the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918. Begonia said Closson was not awarded a Purple Heart until 1992 for being wounded in action.
The ceremonies marking the Post’s centennial are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday outside the post at 108 S. Fourth St. The Armbrust Veterans Association will present the colors and play Taps.
The VFW District Commander Carl Trusiak is scheduled to speak, along with some state officials, Begonia said. Food and beverages will be available after the ceremonies.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .