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Fales hails the financial boost from the outside events, many of which he has attended. But he and Casey (both of whom have spent thousands of their own money paying post bills) disagree on just how open to be. Casey has gotten in trouble with VFW brass in the past for inviting nonmembers to come in whenever they want. At a recent concert, he handed out vouchers for a free future beer.

That goes too far, Fales says. “There are rules. We could lose our charter.”

Posts across the country are struggling to find a balance between serving members and opening to the public, according to Law, the national VFW spokeswoman. Posts have built swimming pools and picnic areas to attract families, she said. Some offer child care. Many have banned smoking, even where local law doesn’t require it.

“A lot of them are now really depending on community involvement,” Law said.

At Post 350, they hope to thread the needle with a new Men’s Auxiliary Group that would offer a kind of second-class membership to locals who want to spend more time at the VFW. Instead of being veterans themselves, the auxiliaries could be the sons or grandsons of someone who has served abroad. The post accepted its first two applications last month.

Patten, the former peace activist, thinks there will be a lot of interest. “I think what you’d find among the lefties in Takoma Park is that we should get to know these guys,” he said. “They’ve endured a lot for us.”


Information from: The Washington Post,