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As New Vets Go Online, VA And Others Follow

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The VFW traces its origins to local associations of war veterans who lobbied for health care and pensions, and their meeting halls often became neighborhood gathering places.

The VFW is no longer the center of its members’ social lives, Abbas acknowledged.

“There’s, what, 2,500 bars across Denver? We could hit a different one every night and be fine,” he joked.

Post 1 emphasizes activism, working with veterans groups on college campuses, sponsoring outings for families of deployed servicemen and women and coordinating with a group that helps families reconnect after a deployment.

“What we’re saying is, look, we love you as a member, but we don’t want you to sit on the sidelines, because if we as vets don’t step up to help our fellow vets, no one else will,” Abbass said.

It was the activism that persuaded Dana Niemela to join Post 1.

“To be quite honest, I thought it was for a different generation of veteran,” said Niemela, 36, who served in the Navy from 1997 to 2005, including two years in the Mediterranean. “When I thought of VFW, I thought of World War II, I thought of Vietnam. I frankly didn’t think of women, and I think that’s a common stereotype,” she said.

“When I started meeting the other members and this post in particular, I was really inspired by how actively engaged they were in the veteran community,” she said.

For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who don’t have much contact with their peers, a website can be a lifeline, said Jason Hansman, manager of the Community of Veterans website at the not-for-profit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“We’re talking about less than 1 percent of the population that served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The social isolation can be great,” said Hansman, 29, who served in Iraq with an Army civil affairs unit.

In November, one veteran’s messages on the site grew darker and darker as he struggled with job and relationship problems, and he eventually made a suicide threat in a chat room. Following its policy, Community of Veterans gave the veteran’s contact information to the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, and the suicide was averted, Hansman said.

Community of Veterans started in 2008 and has swelled to more than 23,000 members.

TakingPoint.com, a for-profit veterans website, had nearly 16,000 members weeks after going live this year, said David Johnson, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of the website.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Oct 1st, 2012 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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