This week, area veterans are reaching out to their fellow service men and women, asking them to consider joining the Waterloo American Legion. In recent years, Becker-Chapman Post #138 has seen a significant drop in membership. Now, with help from neighboring chapters and state leaders, the local legionnaires are hoping to change that.
The Waterloo post is attempting to recruit 200 new or former members, and they figured the best way is to go door to door, talking to folks face to face. Armed with lists of former Legionnaires, a van full of veterans made its way through streets in Waterloo.
"We had a lot of members at one time, now we're trying to get it back to where it was," said American Legion Vice Commander Monte Railsback, of Shellsburg.
At its height, the Waterloo Becker-Chapman Post #138 boasted about 600 members. Most were also members of, what's known as, the greatest generation.
"World War II was the biggest influx of the American Legion, and we're losing them at an astronomical rate every day," said Railsbeck.
Now they're hoping to revitalize the legion by bringing in younger veterans. Some, are like Richard Brandt. He's a veteran of the U.S. Navy, enlisted during the Vietnam War. Brandt belonged to the legion years ago but let it slip to the wayside.
"I enjoyed it for a couple years, but then it got to be too much with the work and everything," he said.
Brandt isn't sure if he'll rejoin -- his grandkids are keeping him pretty busy now. But he encourages new vets, returning from service in the Middle East, to turn to the Legion for guidance.
"They need help to relieve and talk about it. It's rough... it's rough," he noted.
That's what the American legion hopes to continue doing for years to come. Knocking on doors -- literally and figuratively -- reminding folks they are more than a social club. The American Legion is an organization committed to serving those who served their country.
"We have veterans on their knees and we need to get out and help them out. And that's what we're doing here for veterans."
Post #138 is holding two open house events as part of its Revitalization week at its headquarters -- 619 Franklin Street. Stop by Friday, August 12th from 3:00-7:00, and Saturday, August 13th from 10:00-1:00. A state service representative will be there to answer questions from any veteran -- whether you want to sign up for the Legion or not.