- Associated Press - Saturday, January 3, 2015

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - American Legion bars across Minnesota are closing as membership in the veteran organizations has dropped.

The latest bar to close is Post No. 14 in Bemidji, which shut down for good with the new year. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan tours aren’t signing up like their elders who served in Vietnam and Korea. Statewide, Legion membership has dropped from 127,000 to 83,000 in the last two decades.

The result? Minnesota American Legion spokesman Al Zdon guesses 100 Legion bars have closed in the last 10 years.

“Statewide and nationwide, the American Legion is in a state of decline,” he told Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1ELwm8p).

In Bemidji, Post No. 14 commander Bob Aitken said their membership dropped from 1,500 to just 400 in the last 15 years. It was impossible to keep the place open, so Aitken let the 2014 liquor license lapse and closed.

“Times have changed,” Aitken said. “Membership has dwindled, and the members we do have don’t drink that much anymore.”

Joe Forbes, a Korean War veteran, and his wife, Joan, spent a few hours at the Bemidji Legion bar on one of its last open nights. Forbes said he thinks the dropping membership has an underlying factor: His generation is full of “joiners,” and younger generations aren’t.

After getting out of the service 50 years ago, Forbes joined the Masons, the Lions Club, American Legion, the Eagles and his local Presbyterian church.

“Young people watched their parents spend all this time in organizations,” he said, “and they don’t want any part of it.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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