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Are VFWs becoming a thing of the past? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Are VFWs becoming a thing of the past?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The Veterans of Foreign Wars often serves as a refuge when soldiers return home and have nowhere else to go.

"We've had guys come in here that are really in bad shape, with a duffle bag on their back and nothing else," said Robert Brennan of the VFW in Burlington.

But the Middlebury chapter of the nonprofit tells us they have fallen on hard times. Their membership has dwindled from 440 to 227.

"Times, times, we have very few Iraqi Desert Storm, and I believe that's because everybody's, because of the economics," said Ronald Browe of the VFW in Middlebury.

They say they need to act fast to come up with a way to pay off their $18,000 in debt or else they will need to close. They had an emergency meeting Monday and discussed possibly selling some of their property on Exchange Street or getting a loan. For them, a place like this offers something nowhere else does for veterans.

"There's a lot of post-traumatic stress out there; this is a place you can come talk it over with someone else who's been there," Browe said.

The Burlington VFW says it is stable at 500 members, and has a strong calendar of activities for auxiliary members or family of veterans. But officials have their eye on the economic future, too. With few new veterans joining and many of the older ones from World War II and Korea passing away, they also are looking at options. They are considering a proposal from Perrywinkle's to take over their property on South Winooski Avenue and refurbish their floor in exchange for the company being allowed to build four to five floors up. However they do it, VFW members say these posts are necessary for those returning home to a not always happy home life.

"Their time over there is over they can come back and happy days-- it ain't always like that. You've been away from home, probably for at least a year and a half," Brennan said.

They say other organizations like the American Legion are also helpful in supporting veterans, but no one can really understand having been in a foreign combat zone except someone who has been there, too.

The Middlebury chapter will meet again Tuesday and try to come up with a plan within the next couple of weeks.

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