Students Help Local VFW Reach Out to Younger Generation of Veterans

Posted by on October 25, 2013

There are plenty of reasons to be proud of being part of Minnesota School of Business (MSB)—from our iPad initiatives to community service projects to our stellar faculty. But one of the best parts of MSB is the focus on applied and service learning projects. MSB-Richfield’s Marketing Research class is partnering with the local VFW to help them reach out to the younger generation of veterans, a demographic that is noticeably absent from VFW membership.

“We are focusing on the Iraq and Golf War veterans to help inform them about the services the VFW offers, especially in regard to suicide prevention,” said student Christian Steinberg.

minnesota school of business, VFW

Len Gudmunson from VFW Post 5555 speaks to the Marketing Research students.

Len Gudmunson from the Richfield VFW Post 5555 spoke to the class about his experiences, both in the service and as a member of the VFW, and offered insight as to why the younger generations are less involved in the VFW.

“I was in the service for three years and served in Vietnam,” he said. “I joined the VFW in 1977, and I didn’t do anything with it. People that come back from wars are usually young, just getting their careers going, and starting families.”

Len said that of the nearly 1,000 members of their local post, only approximately 30 are in the “younger generation.”

He stressed the importance that all service people need to know about the many resources the VFW offers, especially those concerning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide prevention.

“Anyone who serves in a warzone will come back with PTSD,” Len said.  “We can’t force people to come to us to talk about it, but we want them to know we are here for them.”

One of the struggles for the VFW is the misconceptions as to what they are and what they do.

“The VFW does not mean come in, sit down, have a drink and tell war stories,” Len said.

While the VFW does offer an environment for people to get together and socialize, the aspects of the VFW that people know the least about are the ones of which they are most proud. Some of their programs and services include:

  • Operation Uplink – for deployed service members; provides free phone time to active-duty military personnel and hospitalized veterans.
  • Adopt-a-Unit – sensd care packages to deployed units, checks on family members, reminds them of services available, etc.
  • Unmet Needs – assists military service members and their families who run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other hardships directly related to military service such as mortgage and rent, home and auto repairs, insurance, utilities, food and clothing.
  • Writing contests for children and high school students.

The Marketing Research class plans to help target the desired demographic and collect information on them via survey. It will be a quantitative study using primary data to gather results.

minnesota school of business, VFW

MSB-Richfield Marketing Research students and their instructor, Jason Kriegel (front)

Bill DuFour, a student in the class, is a veteran himself.  This applied learning project hits especially close to home for him.

“It feels really good to be working for the vets,” Bill said.

“We need the younger generation to know we are here to help, and that we are open to change,” Len said. “But what can we do to change is the age-old question.”

The marketing class hopes to help them figure it out.


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