New generation of vets at nation's oldest VFW post

9NEWS at 6 p.m. 11/10/15.

DENVER - At a time when Veterans of Foreign War posts are struggling nationwide, VFW Post 1 in Denver – the country's oldest -- is thriving by changing its traditional model for one that focuses on health and wellness.

The goal is to attract a new generation of veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan, like Army veteran Sara Avitia.

She served two tours overseas. In 2005, she spent a year in Afghanistan. In 2007, she served a six-month tour in Iraq.

"When I came back it was a big adjustment," Avitia said. "I did go through some spells where I turned to drinking, and every time I woke up the next day, I felt my problems were multiplied."

In 2014, after failing to fit in at other VFW posts in the Denver area, she sought solace at VFW Post 1. She regularly attends weekly meditation classes held on Tuesday nights.

"I really feel like this was the post that offered the most motivation to helping each other. The 20 to 30 minute session really helped me breathe easier and calm my mind," Avitia said. "We all work at different paces, but we are all in this together."

Established in 1899, VFW Post 1 is scrapping the old-school traditional model for a welcoming, open space located in an old building off of Santa Fe Drive.

Lining the walls of the post is artwork created by local veterans through the Art Of War project.

During the week, the post holds meditation classes, yoga classes and photography courses for veterans and their families.

The post also puts on a monthly film series.

The only thing you won't find inside the facility: a bar.

"We realized brown bottle therapy is not a means to an end. It really doesn't help, inevitably it hurts," said Army veteran and VFW Post 1 member Tony Adams.

Adams said this new model is helping the once-struggling post to thrive. It's seen 40 to 50 new members each month.

It's a very different story for struggling posts across the country. Many are striving to stay relevant, but are having to close down.

In the past decade, more than 1,000 posts have closed. More than a half million members have left or have passed away.

It's a downward trend the country's oldest VFW post would not accept.

"We are here to honor our history, but we are also here to evolve and be sure we can provide our members with a future," Adams said.

In turn, the post is bending in a different direction to provide a place of comfort and healing for a new generation of our nation's veterans.

Post 1 partnered with the Art of War Project to make these resources available for members.

The classes are free for vets and their families.

(© 2015 KUSA)


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