Local veterans want to form regional group | SierraSun.com

Local veterans want to form regional group

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

After 11 years of dwindling membership in Truckee’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post, Dennis Cook had an idea that he thinks will re-ignite interest in a veterans group in the area.

He wants to form a regional veterans association with lenient eligibility requirements that will bring in enough veterans of all stripes to make an association worthwhile.

“In Sacramento there are 10 or 12 veterans groups,” Cook said. “Up here not one of these groups could maintain enough personnel to get the job done, so combining them just makes sense.”

The VFW chapter in Truckee started in 1994, according to Cook, with more than 50 members. Since then the group has dwindled to just over a dozen members, he said.

“We do still have a veterans group, but we don’t meet that often,” said Craig Fuller, a member of the post.

Other veterans groups, like the American Legion, have faced similar difficulties in the area, and veterans looking for support often have to look as far away as South Lake Tahoe, Nevada City, Colfax or Verdi, Cook said.

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Cook is hoping that the small groups of veterans that have been a part of their own posts can band together in a larger organization to provide a better network for local veterans. The association, as Cook sees it, will be a more flexible, inclusive group.

“We have no borders,” said Cook. “I am not going to say that we are throwing out the rulebook, but we are bending it a little bit.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Truckee had 1,353 civilian veterans in 2000. That equates to 13.2 percent of the town’s population, just over the state average of 12.7 percent.

According to Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Jerry Newberry, the organization has seen an increase in membership last year ” an inspiring sign after 10 straight years of declining membership. And more younger veterans are getting involved, he said.

“Thirty percent of the new veterans signing up are 30 years or younger,” Newberry said.

Cook hopes than by adding younger veterans and by including their families, the organization will be able to take on fund-raising events and provide meaningful support to veterans and their families.

“What we’re doing ” and as far as I know no group has ever done this ” is starting a veterans association and open the door to vets of all kinds,” Cook said.

With enough veterans involved, programs like a van that makes trips to the Sparks Veterans Hospital, could become a reality.

“We need a program up here for the veterans,” said Cook. “It is way overdue.”