HONESDALE — For Phil Sheehan, dwindling numbers are a bad thing.
Sheehan, junior vice commander at VFW Post 531 in Honesdale, says he hopes more veterans will find an interest in joining the post.
"We are not getting enough of the younger vets to come in," said Sheehan.
One of the reasons, he said, is because Vietnam veterans have been reluctant to join veterans organizations.
"Years ago, Vietnam vets were discouraged from coming in," said Sheehan, himself a veteran of Vietnam.
Back then, he said some "didn't consider us in a war" and that's why so many have not joined.
"We're here to help them," said Sheehan. "We understand where they are coming from. Vets can talk to each other. We can understand some of their problems."
One of the biggest things which members of the local post can do is help people get into the Veterans Administration system.
Many vets, he said, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the VA system can help them with that and many other conditions.
The VFW also has a veterans service officer and they can also help them get assistance from the county officer.
"They are entitled to so much and they don't realize it," said Sheehan. "They can help them get on the right track."
For Sheehan, he doesn't care if they join the VFW, American Legion, Disable American Veterans or any other group. Just so they join.
He said the VFW has representatives "who can fight for you." They can help with claim forms and many other steps which are required.
Helping veterans has always been the goal of the group, he said. Sheehan pointed out there are no World War I veterans left in the country and that World War II and Korean War veterans "are dwindling greatly."
He said Vietnam vets are "dying off faster than anyone else." There are less than a million left.
Many of them, he said, "have a very bad taste in their mouths. We want to get all of these guys in."
Many of the Vietnam veterans are "getting sick," he said. That is from a wide variety of problems, including Agent Orange, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and more.
"It took the government 40 years to admit it," he said.
However, he said the VA now has many programs in place to deal with these issues.
"The VA system is a lot better than it used to be," said Sheehan.
Area veterans go to the VA Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, he said. That hospital has "everything" to help treat veterans.
Page 2 of 2 - Besides Vietnam and other vets, Sheehan said there are veterans from the Gulf War, the Global War on Terror as well as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who qualify for benefits.
"A lot of them have the same or worse syndromes," he said.
One of the reasons, he said, is because soldiers are now doing many more tours of duty than in the past.
"These guys and girls are going three, four, five, six times," he said.
Sheehan also pointed out the VFW accepts all veterans, no matter gender.
"If you served overseas, you are more than welcome to join," he said. "We are open to everybody."
Sheehan said many people have "misconceptions" about the VFW, thinking it is "there for people to drink."
That, he said, is simply not true.
"We are a community oriented and family oriented organization," said Sheehan.
The group participates in many area events. They lead parades, do an essay contest, visit nursing homes, participate in funerals, help with grave markers, participate in Veterans Day ceremonies and much more.
They recently did a breakfast for troops who were deployed to Afghanistan.
They also help coordination of sending care packages to local troops who are deployed overseas.
All a person has to do to join the VFW is go to the post with their military records and fill out an application. Sheehan said within a week, most people are approved.
"We are there to help the veterans and their families," he said.
Additionally, Sheehan said if someone chooses not to join, they will still help.
For more information about the VFW, you can contact the post at 253-5373.