Milan VFW post may close its doors
Members to make decisive vote Feb. 27
By Steve Short
After 70 years in Milan, the town’s VFW post could close its doors and consolidate with Trenton’s post.
Members of the Dudley Kizer Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4780, located at 2048 N. Main St., will take a decisive vote Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 pm. on whether to consolidate with Trenton or remain independent.
A two-thirds majority vote of members present Feb. 27 is needed to approve consolidation. If members vote to consolidate, they would merge with Trenton to form a Gibson Co. VFW post. Humboldt’s VFW has given up its building and is meeting in Trenton. Two VFW posts in Dyer folded, one giving up its charter, and another having its charter revoked by the state VFW. A partial VFW post in Kenton merged with Union City.
Milan Post Quartermaster Richard Gray said VFW posts nationwide are hurting. “They can’t get members,” he said.
VFW District 9 Commander Randal Martin of Burlison said he’s seen the number of VFW posts in his district drop from 18 posts to 8 posts. Consolidation can benefit posts, he said. Milan has experienced a decline in participation of officers and attendance at organizational meetings.
“My post had fifty-two members four or five years ago,” said Mr. Martin. “We moved to another location to get more members and have 126 members. We don’t have a bar. We’re in the community. That’s the new image of the VFW; it’s not the dark, smoky bar.”
If Milan members vote to consolidate, they will vote at the Feb. 27 meeting whether to sell the Milan building. Profits from the building sale could be used by the new county post. If the Milan post declines to consolidate, members could risk losing their building to the state VFW due to insufficient active office holders and lack of participation in local and national VFW programs.
Members oppose consolidation
About thirty people attended a meeting at the Milan VFW Feb. 15, and many expressed a desire to keep the Milan post’s independence. “We don’t want it to leave,” said Donna Vandiver, president of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary. “We want to keep helping veterans here.”
Two veteran members, George Fain and Tody Hunley, attended the meeting. “We all need to know if we can keep this open,” said Mr. Fain. He said he was glad to see some younger people showing interest by attending last week’s meeting.
Tody Hunley helped organize the Milan VFW post in 1947 and still uses a reserved parking space. “I’d like to see them stay open; I don’t think they ought to close,” said Mr. Hunley. “There used to be a lot of members, but they were mostly World War II veterans. They are dying out. The new veterans are not as interested in joining as the old ones were.”
Officers of the Milan VFW are: Alvin Escue – commander; George Fain – senior vice commander; Dawn Skidmore – adjutant; Richard Gray – quartermaster; Paul Thomas – chaplain. Donna Vandiver is president of the Women’s Auxiliary, and Anita Darnell the Secretary.
The Milan post has about 124 members.
“We want to try to get the post out of the hole and back on its feet,” said Ms. Darnell. “The older members have let it go down. That’s why we’re trying to save it. We got four new members at the Feb. 15 meeting. We’re just hoping the community and the vets will get behind us and help us keep it open. We want to get back to doing things for the community. It’s not about the canteen.”
Young vets wanted
Army Sgt. First Class Nicholas Slaughter, based at the Milan National Guard Armory, spoke several times at last week’s meeting. He said the VFW needed to be a place where veterans helped veterans and the community.
Slaughter said he would like to see the Milan post revitalized. He and veteran Billy Stepps said the Milan post needs to communicate to a younger generation of veterans by using Facebook and other media. After Wednesday’s meeting, Stepps created two Facebook pages for the Milan post.
“I am ashamed to say I have just become a member at Milan,” he said. “Milan has a nice post; however, there is a need for some updating and minor stuff. The main effort now is, we need more veterans to join, and some of them to step up and fill officer positions. The current officers have been doing their duties for far too long, some for nine years.”
Slaughter and Stepps posted info on Facebook about applying for membership at the Milan post.
The public page is: Dudley Kizer Post 4780 VFW Milan, TN.
Milan VFW Adjutant Dawn Skidmore said some current officers want to step down, because they have served so long. Ms. Skidmore had supported the idea of consolidation, because participation in meetings had declined. If the state revoked the Milan post charter, members would not have control over sale of the building. But after hearing Slaughter and Stepps speak at the Feb. 15 meeting, Skidmore said she was optimistic the Milan post could retain its independence and be revived.
“I really liked what they had to say,” she said. “Sgt. Slaughter is from this area and is at the armory; I love that. Stepps used to be a master sergeant. I’m impressed with them. I have extreme faith in these guys and am very optimistic. I think we can keep (the post) going and make it better.”
Skimore also heard some new ideas for events at the Milan post. “I want to give these guys a chance; they brought in some good ideas,” she said. “I’m going to vote not to consolidate, because these guys showed up. Others also do not want to consolidate.”
District Commander Randal Martin said the national VFW wants local posts to promote community programs, including the Voice of Democracy audio-essay contest for high school students; Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for junior high age students; people of the year honors recognizing outstanding teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMT’s; and the longstanding Buddy Poppy program, which involves disabled, needy and aging veterans and has raised millions of dollars in support of veterans’ welfare and the well-being of their families. The VFW programs offer participants the chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes and scholarships.
“These core programs are the ones the national VFW is wanting everybody to do,” said Martin. “National (VFW) does not recognize the canteen (bar) as official VFW business.
Milan VFW leaders Dawn Skidmore and Donna Vandiver said the Milan post is participating in many community programs, including the student essay contests.
Martin said his role as District Commander is to offer the Milan post members options and suggestions.
“If two posts vote to consolidate, and one doesn’t, the one will remain by itself,” he said. “But what happens in two to three years?”
He thinks a consolidated, Gibson Co. post might serve veterans better than individual posts. He thinks without consolidation, Milan could have its charter revoked, and the post lose the option of selling its building.
“I’d rather see them consolidate,” he said. “The money from the sale of their building would stay with the post to help veterans, instead of the building sale money going to an unchartered fund the state has from the sale of all these defunct VFW posts.”
If Milan, Humboldt and Trenton posts consolidate, the new Gibson Co. post could operate in Trenton under Trenton’s post number. Memorabilia could be displayed inside the Trenton post to show the history of the three posts.