As a former Army engineer, I learned that reconnoitering a build site or battleground was of paramount importance for a successful mission. Sometimes the best way to do this is to get out of the gun truck and walk around (and take lots of photos). Starting a VFW in a city can be similar, but the metaphor is not eyeballing overwatch spots but finding stakeholders.
A stakeholder is a group, organization, or even a person who has an interest or concern in an area or with an organization. They or the area of concern can affect or be affected by changes in policies or actions. In other words, if you are starting a veterans group in a city, it is a good idea to find out who else is there.
For example, there is the New Haven Veterans Advisory Committee. They oversee the Memorial Day services in the city including a popular concert. The Elks are very active in the veterans community, including hosting a free cookout between the Memorial Day services until the evening concert. In New Haven, there are myriad groups that focus on art, yoga, and the storied 102D IN Regiment.
It is important to meet and open dialogues with different groups to establish natural alliances, but also to prevent animosity. You don’t want to be the new kids on the block and alienate like-minded groups.
For example, there is an American Legion Post #132 in New Haven. This year, they were the fourth unit in the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Connecticut’s largest single-day spectator event. Their position in this event is a place of honor. Unfortunately, Post #132 is one of four “closed” American Legion posts in the country. It is open only to veterans who are New Haven city firemen.
Knowing this, and finding and understanding other stakeholders, helps me and the other veterans forming VFW New Haven better answer questions about veterans groups in the city and will help us find our way.