An adobe-style building that provided a haven for military veterans since World War II in Miltona is closing down.
The VFW was down to 15 members and its income from raffle tickets and fees had also fallen substantially, said quartermaster Roger Schwartz.
"We don't have any money," he said. "Nobody comes to the meetings anymore. Young guys don't want to come."
It's a fate VFWs have faced around the country. Membership has dropped from 2.2 million members after the Vietnam War to 1.7 million today, said Pat Bohmer, adjutant for the Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars. During the mid-1980s, Minnesota had 305 VFW posts, but the number has decreased to 215 today.
"There were a lot of World War II vets that started these things up," Bohmer said.
World War II veterans had a lot in common with Korea and Vietnam vets, in that they went to war and came home, he said. Modern soldiers are deployed, come home, and get deployed again and sometimes again. As the oldest veterans die off, the youngest ones simply aren't replacing them.
Bohmer said he and the state VFW commander were informed that the Miltona members voted to close. He didn't have a closing date, but said that he and the commander will travel to Miltona to meet with them on Aug. 11 and see if the remaining members can be consolidated into another post.
Shutting down the club will likely take several months, he said.
Meanwhile, many VFWs are trying to avoid a similar fate by actively recruiting non-veterans to their halls.
"People think it's an exclusive place and it's not open to the public," said Tom Scearcy, temporary gambling manager for the Alexandria VFW. "We've got a big sign on the front of the building that says, 'Open to the public.' ... We want everybody."
Because veterans still need a place to talk to other vets, the post does hold monthly meetings for veterans and special events throughout the year for them, he said. But anybody can come in for bingo or to grab a burger or sandwich.