American Legion Expands to Attract Young Vets

Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Ira Quillen

Lynchburg, VA - The American Legion is working to bring fresh faces into its organization and hopes to attract them with an expansion. Just this week, construction crews poured the foundation for a 3,600 square foot addition to the building on Greenview Drive.

The addition is much more than extra square footage. There's no doubt about it, the legion is aging. Most members served in Vietnam, Korea and even World War II. The hope is the new building will draw younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are nicknamed "sandbox soldiers." They are young men like Jason Frantz who served in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, they are returning home as veterans. But, they aren't joining veterans' organizations like the American Legion.

"I thought this was nothing but for old fogies," joked Frantz.

Lynchburg's American Legion boasts it's more than 1,000 members strong. But the membership is aging, And that's a concern. New blood, new ideas and a new look is now on the table.

"This is going to be the entertainment area, this is going to be the bar area," said Bob Woods, pointing to floor plans.

Woods is Social Club Manager. It's been three years of planning. Finally, his idea to attract younger veterans to join the legion is taking shape. The 3,600 square foot addition is a brand new social club triple the size of the current one.

Woods says the legion - and its addition - has much to offer young veterans: Whether its helping navigate health benefits or just a place where people understand where you've been and how you feel.

"Out in the real world - how can I put it - you feel isolated. In here, you feel like you fit in," said Frantz.

Legion members take great pride in helping one another. This weekend, there's a benefit dinner and dance for veteran Jason Frantz. It is scheduled for Sunday, July 22 at 3 p.m. with a social hour 4 p.m. dinner and 5 p.m. show. The Ho-Kiss Po-Kiss Entertainers will perform. Tickets are $15 and its open to the public.

The addition to the legion should be done November 1.