One last New Year's toast: It's taps for another American Legion bar


The American Legion bar in downtown Bemidji closed its doors after its annual New Years Eve celebration.

Valley News Live reported that dwindling membership led to the decision to shutter the post, which formed 95 years ago.

"Twenty-five years ago we had 1,500 members. Today we’re around 400 to 450 members,” post commander Bob Aitken told the station.

A Bemidji bar purchased the American Legion building. Although the bar is gone, club members plan to continue with service duties, such as providing honor guards.

The closing of the Bemidji American Legion follows a decline in the number of veteran's clubs around the state. MPR News reported that membership in the American Legion in Minnesota dropped from 127,000 to 83,000 over the last 20 years. Most members served in the Korean War and Vietnam.

The story is the similar for posts for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. At its peak Minnesota had 320 VFW posts; just over 220 remain. In August, the Lakeville VFW hall closed. The Northland's News Center reported on the closing of the Hibbing post last April; the VFW club there didn’t have the required eight officers it needed to keep its charter.

“It’s not a decline in membership across the state, it’s a decline in membership across the nation,” state VFW Commander Frank Presfield said at the time.

The national decline in veteran's halls and organizations is related to demographics, with today’s veterans not replacing the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans. Younger veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are far less likely to join military clubs that their older counterparts.

Less than 1 percent of today's U.S. population serves in the military, compared to more than 12 percent during World War II.

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