BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The make up of U.S. combat veterans has changed drastically over 119 years.
There now is a completely volunteer force since 9/11, as opposed to wars like Vietnam and Korea that had a draft.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars service organization is having to adjust in order to continue its mission of helping this new generation of combat vets. In Biloxi, that means creating new opportunities and amenities to help keep coast veterans South Mississippi Strong.
"We try to help other veterans financially and everything else," said Sr. Vice Commander David Usry. "It just depends on what's going on."
Usry has been a member of VFW post 2434 since the sixties. Back then, the post sat on Howard Avenue. "It's just to go and be around other veterans, which, we talk about a lot of personal things too," said Usry.
He recalls, back then, the differences between wars took its toll on relations between veterans. "The world war two veterans, they didn't really understand the Vietnam veterans," Usry said, "The national VFW is controlled by Vietnam veterans now. We really break a leg to get the young guys in because we don't want to feel that same way."
Post 2434, now in its new location outside of Keesler Air Force Base on Pass Road, is in a prime location to assist the new generation of veterans even before they deploy.
"When a guy gets a long weekend at Keesler he can swing by here and get in the computer room and that's a little thing," said Commander William F. Rhodes.
Rhodes sees the new computer lab in the VFW as a way to get that younger generation of vets in the door. "To me, if I was on the other side of that gate out there, I'd enjoy it," Rhodes said. "Because I could come here and get on that computer and do whatever they do on the computer nowadays."
Usry hopes the new building and new amenities will help young service members see what the VFW has to offer. "I hope it works with the young G.I.s coming in because we are open to the public and that means them too," Usry said.
For him, the VFW has been a place where he feels at home.
"You can say something they'll understand where you was," said Usry. "You know you've been there. You've done that. You know what it is to sleep in a ditch. Just did a trench and get in there and sleep for the night. And nobody else understands that unless you've been through it."
In order to help combat veterans with anything they may need regarding benefits, a VFW service officer is on site the first and third Thursday of every month.