Riverton Veteran organizations seek next generation of members

(Riverton, WY) – Nestled amongst the businesses along East Main Street, you’ll find Veterans Hall. Marked by an American flag on the light pole outside, it’s home to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

County 10 sat down with American Legion Commander 87-year-old Warren Hess to discuss the local American Legion and learn about their needs.

Hess joined the American Legion in Riverton about 20 years ago.

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“We had a real viable post here in town,” he recalled when he joined. “(The) VFW was going great, the American Legion, we were all really doing it, but we’re of a generation long past.”

Noting the differences in age and the way the younger generation approaches things, Hess isn’t sure how to get younger Veterans involved in the organization.

“In order for anything to keep going and be valid and viable, you have to progress with the times, and what I’ve been struggling with ever since I’ve been in the Legion is to try to bridge that gap into what the young people are interested in.”

These Veteran organizations go beyond the local area and are largely responsible for getting Veteran benefits by lobbying Congress, he continued.

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“Without organizations like ours, who’s going to lobby for them, who’s going to get the benefits that they have coming in, who’s going to help them and I think if they understood a little bit more about that, that some of them might be a little bit more interested in benefiting themselves because that benefits them as well as anybody else. I would just love to have young people come in and tell me what they want. I would like nothing better than somebody to come in and have a younger generation replace me.”

The American Legion raises funds throughout the year so they can support local youth organizations, including Legion Baseball, Boys State, and scholarships, among other things. Hess has also been responsible for the Avenue of Flags for the past 11 years.

“We put out, right now, 160 flags on all of the holidays. And because of that, the businesses are generous to donate to that effort because it not only beautifies the community but it sends a message.”

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“We try to be a part of many things that the community is involved in and supporting the community as well as they support us.”

Hess believes it’s the busyness of young people that is preventing them from joining Veterans organizations.

“I’m not asking for all their time, but I’m asking for people that will do what they can to be a part of not only this but a part of the community and Riverton at the same time.”

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Veterans Hall was formed as a local nonprofit umbrella for the two organizations, so the members could continue supporting the community. “Veterans helping Veterans” is their mission. Anyone can be a part of Veterans Hall.

“We had to bring all of these organizations together under the guise of Veterans Hall in order to have enough people to do the things that we want for the community.”

If you are interested in learning more about the American Legion or VFW, you can stop by Veterans Hall Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm or call (307) 563-0963.

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