As the nation prepares to mark Veterans Day next week, members of two local veterans organizations say they've seen growth in their ranks.
But they say an influx of Vietnam-era veterans, not veterans of the Persian Gulf War, account for most new members.
"In the last year, we've probably picked up 30 Vietnam vets," said Vern Russell, commander of Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14 of the American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth.
"As far as the Persian Gulf people, they're not there."
After the Persian Gulf War, some local veterans expressed hope that their organizations would see an increase in the number of younger veterans getting involved.
But relatively few new members of the local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts are gulf veterans, organizers said.
Mike Miller, commander of the local VFW, 138 Ala., said more Vietnam veterans have joined that organization, which has about 620 members.
"We've had a few of the ones that used to belong come back," he said. "Like me I first joined in 1970 when I got back from Vietnam but I dropped out because I didn't like it. I joined again in 1990 and now I'm a life member."
MILLER SAID that many Vietnam veterans may have been reluctant to join veterans organizations after they returned home because of the stigma of Vietnam.
But now, he said, many Vietnam veterans are coming together and taking over the leadership roles in organizations such as the VFW and American Legion from older veterans who fought in World War II or Korea.
A third local organization, Chapter 22 of the Disabled American Veterans, has lost membership in recent years, its commander says.
"It's been dropping as people get older and pass away," said Elden Lovelett, commander of the local DAV.
Elden said the Persian Gulf war has had little impact on the DAV because few soldiers were injured in the conflict.
"It's good if you look at it that way," he said.
LOVELETT said that although many Vietnam-era veterans could join the organization, many choose not to do so.
"There are lots of Vietnam DAVs but they're not interested in joining us," he said. "I think it has to do with being young and busy."
Lovelett said that as more Vietnam veterans reach retirement age, they may be more likely to join veterans organizations.
The local DAV has about 50 members. Membership in the American Legion is about 670.
Hundreds of local veterans from all three organizations are expected to take part in a Veterans Day commemoration ceremony set for 11:11 a.m. Wednesday at the American Legion.
The event is held at the time in which the World War I armistice was signed, organizers said.
Activities will include remarks from former pilots and prisoners of war, two 21-gun salutes, a color guard and a balloon release. The commemoration ceremony is open to the public.