Relevance: We Need To Talk!


“I stared at the empty chairs and thought how hard it is to change the organization when the majority of my generation would rather complain than show up.” – Adrian Cole, from his blog post “An Iraq War Vets Firsthand Acount of the VFW National Convention”

They’re out there telling us things, and this organization needs to have a good, solid, productive conversation about where we are, how we do things, and where we’re headed!

Not a B.S. Session where we all just air our gripes, but a hard conversation about how we keep from flushing 116 years of progress on Veterans’ needs and legislative clout down the proverbial toilet. We don’t need to talk for the sake of talking. We need to talk for the sake of action!

I’m calling it a “conversation”, because conversations are two-way streets. You talk and you listen. You have two ears and one mouth. In a conversation, you use them in that proportion. You don’t argue, because that’s not a conversation! You don’t have time to hear the other person if your mind is busy coming up with something to rebut the other person. Arguments are a waste of time. (See also “Congress” and “Government” for the ultimate in wasted ideological arguing.)

The best conversations take place between people of differing opinions, of course. Sitting around the pub talking with only those who see everything exclusively from your viewpoint are pleasantly pointless exercises. What’s to say when you both just recite the same sentiments, nod and have another brew?

No, a conversation involves first hearing other viewpoints, considering them and comparing them to your own perspective. It involves asking questions to gain the best understanding of what you just heard, and then explaining how you understand what you just heard and maybe comparing it to what your experience has been. Good conversation builds friendships. Added friendships grow your social circle. As it grows, you feel more comfortable changing old habits and gaining new experiences.

For the organization, these conversations accumulate, creating the atmosphere that allows our great Combat Veterans Organization to be an ever more responsive and vital advocate for all Veterans.

But how to prepare for these conversations? One great way is to read accounts such as the recent post by Adrian Cole, a former Artillery Captain in Iraq: An Iraq War Vet’s Firsthand Account Of The VFW National Convention. This remarkable account is measured, balanced, refreshingly candid yet fair in its assessment of the whole VFW National experience at the Pittsburgh convention this past July.

When you get to the end of Adrian’s account, take the time to browse the comments as well. (In addition to learning that we’re not the only Vets that know how to “bitch”, you’ll also come across some valuable insights from other Vets, young and old alike.)

And finally, check out the other posts by Cole and others because they are great conversation starters. Bring these stories into your Posts and get a few comrades to read and think about them. If you can get a few good members, hopefully including some younger members, to chew over what’s happening beyond the bar or the fish fry, you might just create a core group that can unlock your Post’s potential and reinvigorate the VFW starting right there in your home town.

If we don’t listen in and join this critical conversation, we will fail in the mission we all signed up for when we first paid our VFW dues: Honor the Dead by Helping the Living. We will flat-line our organization and rob our Combat heirs of more than a century of experience and effective advocacy.

This conversation has to start here at home and translate into action. We have leadership at the very top, most notably our Commander-in-Chief John A. Biedrzycki Jr, chomping at the bit to pump life back into the VFW, but without the energy, understanding and action of the local Post, (That means YOU!) they have no troops to carry out their directives.

If you’d like to bookmark the site where commentaries by Adrian Cole and others appear, it is:

Bill Knudson, WI VFW State Judge Advocate

Photo Courtesy Adrian Cole

In: Uncategorized