Young commander breathes life into Legion post
BOYDEN, Iowa (AP) — Most organizations, whether filled with volunteers or paid members, depend on fresh faces joining to bring new energy to sustain the group.
Jeremy Kruid hopes that the efforts he’s made as commander of the Wm. Monster American Legion Post No. 272 in Boyden can show younger veterans what’s possible if they step up and join.
At age 35, Kruid knows of only one other Legion commander in northwestern Iowa who’s younger.
The American Legion and other veterans groups are often viewed as “that group grandpa or dad belonged to.” Those groups now need younger veterans like Kruid to keep them going. As Kruid has found since transferring to the post here and becoming commander, it doesn’t take a whole army of fresh recruits to energize older members and inspire them to become more involved.
“Just bringing in some new blood is enough to get some people up and going,” said Kruid, a native of nearby Sioux Center, Iowa, who moved to Boyden in 2015 and had lived here from 2002 until serving in the Marines from 2006 to 2010, doing an overseas tour in Afghanistan and another in the Pacific Ocean and Middle East.
The Sioux City Journal reports that Kruid joined the Legion in Sioux Center five years ago at the urging of his mother, Gloria. Kruid knew very little about the Legion and wasn’t that interested in joining.
“Initially my mom dragged me in kicking and screaming. She paid my dues the first couple years,” Kruid said.
Gloria, a member of the Legion Auxiliary, thought the Legion was an important organization. It didn’t take Kruid long to realize that, as is often the case, mother knows best.
“Once you learn what all the American Legion does, there’s a lot of value to it,” he said.
Kruid became an officer, serving as adjutant for the Sioux Center post. After moving to Boyden, he tired of driving to meetings. He’d met a few Legion members in Boyden and decided he was needed more here. Membership had dwindled to around 30. Traditional activities such as an omelet brunch and placing flags and crosses at the cemetery had fallen by the wayside.
When Kruid transferred his membership to Boyden, he knew the older members, most of them from the Vietnam and Korean war eras, expected him to be more than a silent member.
“They asked if I’d be the commander, and I said I’d kind of planned on it anyway,” he said.
Since Kruid joined, the post has become more active. It held a Veterans Day event last fall. Legion members once again placed dozens of flags at the cemetery and crosses on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day. The omelet brunch has returned. The post sponsored a Boys State participant this summer for the first time in years.
The more the post did, Kruid found, the more members began showing up for meetings and to help.
As a young commander, Kruid has the energy to take on those activities. Commanders at other posts have told him the best way to recruit new members is for the post to be active and visible in the community. Kruid hopes younger veterans in the Boyden area will be attracted to the post’s renewed presence.
“I think it’ll start picking up here in the next year or two, as long as we can keep going,” he said.
Kruid knows veterans his age are busy raising kids and attending their activities. They’re also the same people who can lend a new perspective to make activities more attractive to a younger crowd. Once the post is on more stable ground, Kruid plans to turn his attention toward those younger veterans.
“Without the next generation coming in, the American Legion probably won’t be around very many more years,” Kruid said.
That would be too bad. Veterans groups have done a lot of good in communities across Siouxland and the rest of the country.
The boost those groups could get from the hundreds of young veterans living in Siouxland could keep them running well into the future.
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com