For the average Worthington resident, the contribution of local veterans groups might go unnoticed.

Worthington's American Legion Leasure-Blackston Post 239 has a modest headquarters tucked away on Morning Street. The city's Veterans of Foreign Wars members in BG Paul W. Tibbets Memorial VFW Post 2398 meet at Sharon Memorial Hall on Dublin-Granville Road.

Neither group focuses on public relations or touting their own accomplishments. Instead, they work largely behind the scenes, attempting to make a difference in the community, according to their leaders.

The American Legion organizes the city's Memorial Day parade and Sept. 11 "remembrance" –Patriot Day. It also raises money for veteran-oriented charities, sends young delegates to the American Legion Buckeye Boys State and Girls State programs, works with students in schools and assists veterans in times of need.

The VFW post raises money for charitable causes, coordinates a number of annual community awards, organizes visits for veterans in the hospital and puts on annual writing and presentation competitions for scholarships in Worthington Schools.

Members say their outreach efforts don't come out of service or begrudging support; instead, they come from a sense of community.

"We try to get involved in the community as much as we can," VFW member Bill Mirick said.

The fellowship of being with other veterans can mean almost as much, too.

"The Legion is a source of camaraderie, something we all shared in the military," said Rich Richardson, Post 239's commander. "Once you're out, you're only one among many. But when you can get involved in the Legion, you're more closely related to your fellow veterans and people you can talk to who understand what each other went through."

However, despite the role they play in they community, leaders of both groups said they are seeing dwindling membership from younger generations.

According to national American Legion spokesman John Raughter, more than half of the Legion's 2 million members nationally are veterans of the Vietnam War. But only about 100,000 nationally have joined from wars fought since 1990, he said.

"I don't know if some of it is just a perception that the Legion is just a bunch of old vets telling war stories, but 42 years ago when I joined, I wasn't one of those old guys," Richardson said. "So I don't know whether there are some preconceived notions that that's all we are or whether there's just an attitude of not wanting to be involved after the term of service."

Mirick had an even simpler explanation.

"I don't think they feel they have the time," he said.

But Raughter said he is not worried about the lack of younger members.

In fact, he said, he doesn't think the Legion has any problem attracting younger generations. He said he expects a membership uptick in a decade or two.

"It's not surprising for someone who is very young and is getting right out of the military," he said. "You're raising a family, have a full time job with the military or you're full-time in school. As you get older, the kids get raised, you may have used the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) health-care system a little more, you may have more time to volunteer and join American Legion."

Richardson said his main concern is that without organized veterans, the VA and other groups who help protect their rights will lose funding and traction that "gives us a voice in Washington."

"It really does worry me," he said. "The bulk of our membership is probably Vietnam-era veterans. And of those who served, we're dying off."

He said the VFW has about five members from more recent wars and he hopes other young veterans will come to see the importance of groups like the Legion and the VFW.

"My message would be that they really need to get involved," he said.

"(A veteran's) service is important to his country and he still has ability to serve his fellow veterans. So many of them are really not aware of the benefits available to them, but they'd find out if they got involved with the Legion or the VFW."

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